In our American Icons class, we were assigned to pick an icon from a particular category, and I was designated with politics. I decided to leave it up to my French counterpart, Lucie, to pick an American political icon that was most relevant overseas. Of course, the first thing I said was “Please not Trump. He’s not a politician, he’s an entertainer.” To my surprise she didn’t pick, Trump, Obama, Cruz, Hillary, Bernie or any current political candidate. She picked Michelle Obama. It is interesting to learn that her influence isn’t primarily domestic, but translates worldwide.
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born in DeYoung, Illinois on January 17, 1964. DeYoung is now Calumet Park, and is a town right outside of Chicago. Her parents, Fraser Robinson and Marian Robinson, ran an extremely tight knit family. Her father was a city pump operator for Chicago and also a Democratic Precinct captain. Her mother was a homemaker for the most part, raising her and her brother, Craig.
Michelle attended Princeton University and graduated Cum Laude with her bachelors in Sociology. She went on to go to Harvard Law School where she was an activist for more minority involvement in collegiate systems. Out of college she landed a job with Sidley Austin, a law firm in Chicago. In 1989, she was assigned to be an adviser to a new intern, who just happened to be the future 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. She resisted his romantic advances at first, citing their professional relationship, but eventually relented. She was married two years after meeting Barack, on October 3, 1992.
One of the most interesting things about researching Michelle was reading her impressive resume. Her accolades explain her worldwide influence and her strength as FLOTUS.
Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development in Chicago (1991)
Executive Director of the Office of Public Allies in Chicago (1993)
Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago (1996)
University of Chicago’s Executive Director of Community Development and External affairs (2002)
Vice President of Community External Affairs for the University of Chicago’s Medical Center (2005)
She scaled back her personal work in 2007 to help with her husband’s campaign for president, but was far from dormant. She blazed the campaign trail and garnered national attention when thrust into the spotlight. Her most famous speech came in 2012 when Barack was up against Mitt Romney in the presidential primaries. “Every day, the people I meet inspire me, every day they make me proud, every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth. Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege”
As First Lady early on, she has concentrated on many different subjects such as encouraging national service, helping women balance a career and family, and support for military families. She also stressed the importance of education throughout her years as FLOTUS.
Her most well known work as First Lady has been her fight on the food industry and working for health causes. She demanded organic ingredients be used in meals made for guests of the White House as well as members of her family. She installed a 1,100 square foot garden on the White House lawn equipped with fresh vegetables and installed beehives throughout.Her exercise initiative “Let’s Move”, encourages kids and young adults to try new sports and get out and be active. She made a statement on Let’s Move in 2012, saying “This year, 1.7 million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities—many of them for the very first time. And that is so important, because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson, or clinic, or class to get a child excited about a new sport.”
I was very pleasantly surprise to learn about Michelle Obama’s popularity around the world. It is refreshing to know that not only domestically but in places such as France, Michelle Obama’s outreach is felt. She is known as the strong willed First Lady who is no nonsense on the food industry and fights for women’s rights in the workplace and is a strong, positive American Icon that I am proud to report on. She will be a tough act to follow in 2017.