When they go low, we go high.
Forget La La Land. The romance that will hold your hand through this bleak time is not going to be found in Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s toe-tapping, feel-good flick that is marketed like it can immunise you from the Trump plague. Whilst it may be restorative for Oscar voters who like nothing more than applauding films that hold up a glittering mirror to Hollywoodland, there’s a far worthier tonic. Instead of pinning your hopes to Stosling (Gostone?), look to another duo, or rather one lady in particular. The 44th First Lady, Michelle Obama.
On the week of Trump’s inauguration, Gallup ran a poll on her approval ratings which were pegged at 68%, higher than her husband’s. It’s not unusual for First Ladies to increase in popularity towards the end of a presidency, but there’s a particular buzz around Michelle. In Politico, Madeline Conway writes ‘For mourning Democrats, Michelle Obama offers hope.’ Her article feeds the frenzied speculation that Michelle might possibly run for President in 2020, which has been refuted by big M herself (watch this space).
What to do with the current surge in popularity and inevitable future swells?
Right now – a vacay in the British Virgin Islands. The future – obama.org.
Before you enter the official site for the Obama’s new foundation, you’re directed to a landed page hosting a video with a freeze frame of Obama on the cusp of a mic drop:’Obama Out.’ The film cuts to a table post-dinner, with an absence of guests and food, napkins scrunched on the table, the sound of applause overlaying the visuals. A lone girl wonders through the decadent space, seeking something. Thundering applause mellows to wondrous tones. “This generation coming up, I see you. In every corner of the country. You are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.” Applause is heard again and the girl pics up Obama’s fallen mic. Picking up the mantle, she goes to speak….
Pass the mic.
Legacy. Legacy. What is a Legacy?
The Obama Foundation, set up on the South Side of Chicago is calling out for support – they want ideas of what they can accomplish, stories of people achieving great things and financial support to make it all happen. The Obama’s have set their sights on nurturing morally upright citizens. Whilst the video may be slightly misjudged (Why do we only hear Barack Obama’s voice? Why is the girl cut off right after she takes hold of the mic? Why is she alone?), it does set an expectation that the Obama’s focus on the future generation will be their priority.During her time in the White House, Michelle certainly laid the groundwork for this sort of foundation. From her work with Let Girls Learn to Lets Move!, the future generations have captured Michelle’s focus.
Her interests in the White House lead to criticism from some groups, calling her out for self-branding herself ‘Mom in chief’ rather than being an activist. In 2013, Michelle Cottle wrote an article on Michelle for Politico, Leaning Out: How Michelle became a feminist nightmare. In it, she references something Linda Hirshman put forward:
Gardening? Tending wounded soldiers? Reading to children? “She essentially became the English lady of the manor, Tory Party, circa 1830s,”
I agree with much of Cottle’s grievences; yes, as the first African-American first lady, and one of the best educated, Michelle could have ignited conversations about race and gender and spotlighted issues for minority communities. But, at the same time, surely feminism should be about choice. She didn’t fail. She showed hestitation on going into the White House, illustrated nervousness at bringing up her two daughters in the public eye and left a prosperous job to support her husband, none of this screams political prowess.
But then, something pushed her to speak out. The end of her husband’s term and rise of the Trump-era seemed to ignite more fury in Michelle’s public addresses. During her New Hampshire speech in October last year, Michelle said the following:
“The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.”
She may hold her naturing qualities in highest regard, but this speech deomonstrated her ability to speak out on our behalf and show outrage. She’s not mollified.
The style icon, fitness and gardening conversations are dull. But, Michelle has become emblematic for being a good, caring person and genuinely inspires young people. In a growing climate of division, it’s a pretty solid message to be spreading – I’m not sure how much of that we’ll see from the current first lady. It’s not a perfect romance, but you can easily be wooed by Michelle Obama.
Legacy. What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up
Wise up. Eyes up