Woman of Courage
Michelle Obama, known as the being former First Lady of the United States of America, is one of the most influential and popular figures in today’s politics and media. Her story is an example for people everywhere, especially young girls today, that no amount of obstacles can keep you from reaching your goals and doing what is right.
Born as Michelle Robinson on January 17, 1964, she was raised to know the value of things and to work hard for what you earn. Her father, Fraser Robinson, was a city plant employee and Democratic precinct captain. Her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, later worked as a secretary at Spiegel’s Catalog Store. Michelle was a hard worker in school from the beginning. Her childhood consisted of having a close knit family. Michelle played the piano as a young girl and her family attended a Methodist church in Chicago. Although her father had a job to provide for a family, the family suffered financially a bit. They were not rich and didn’t have much but they had each other. This is what her parents a taught their children. This is the reason Michelle and her brother worked hard in school to get an education so that they could earn what they wanted in life. In addition to the family’s financial trouble, her father also suffered from multiple sclerosis. This was another reason Michelle learned the importance of education and dedication to hard work. When she began sixth grade, Michelle attended a gifted class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School. When she entered high school, she attended Whitney Young High School, a magnet school that had selective enrollment. When she was preparing to attend this school, she was scared of how others would treat her because of her race and gender. However she used this negativity “to fuel me, to keep me going.” While growing up, Michelle remembers facing gender discrimination in her daily life. For example, instead of asking for her opinion on subjects, she remembers being asked what her big brother thought on the matter. In high school, Michelle was on honor roll all 4 years. She took AP classes and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was also student council treasurer and graduated in 1981 as her class salutatorian. When she graduated and announced her goals for the future, her teachers warned her not to set her goals too high. They didn’t want her to get her hopes up too high.
However, after high school, Michelle attended Princeton University, where her older brother had also gone. Since her brother was a Princeton alumni, Michelle wanted to show her own worth through doing good at the university in her studies. She majored in sociology and minored in African American studies. At first Michelle was overwhelmed with high expectations.. Since her parents never graduated college and she had never been to a college campus before, adjusting to college life was not easy for her. Michelle also faced race and social class issues at Princeton. She felt like an outsider for the first time in her life. In 1985, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. Afterwards she attended Harvard Law School, where she earned her Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1988. At Harvard, she advocated for professors who were members of minority groups to add more diversity on the campus. She also worked for Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where she helped students received financial aid.
When her father passed in March in 1991, instead of letting it hold her back, she used this as motivation to keep her going, like her father would want her to. He remained as her motivation and her rock. Around this same time, one of her good friends, Suzanne, passed away from cancer. Losing them made Michelle rethink her contributions to society. She saw this as a “turning point” in her life. Soon after, Michelle met Barack Obama whole working at a law firm, Sidley Austin. They were both among the very few African Americans who worked there. Michelle was assigned to Barack as a mentor while he wa swirling there as a summer associate. The two married on October 3, 1992.
Later, when the couple decided to begin a family together, Michelle suffered a miscarriage. They decided to undergo vitro fertilization to conceive their two daughters. Their first born, Malia Ann, was born in 1998, followed by their second born, Natasha, who was born in 2001. The family lived in Chicago’s South Side. Barack taught at the University of Chicago and then was elected to state senate in 1996 and U.S. senate in 2004. Michelle worked at a law firm, as a lawyer, and became Executive Director for Chicago Office of Public Allies in 1993. In 1996, she became the Dean of Students Services at the University of Chicago. In 2002, Michelle became the Executive Director for Community Affairs and later the Vice President for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago.
When Barack’s 2008 campaign for U.S. President began, Michelle was hesitant and scared because she didn’t know want it to affect their daughters negatively though racism. However, she made a commitment to contribute to the campaign as little as possible, so she could still stay close to her daughters and be a mother. She continued working at her job and taking time off, but stopped working as her husband’s campaign continued. She began to campaign more and discussed race and education. Michelle attended events, gave speeches, and made appearances with influential people like Oprah Winfrey. At first, she was painted as an “Angry Black Woman” by the media. Michele did not let this get to her and used it as encouragement to continue to contribute to the campaign. After she spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, her public image changed drastically. The public favored her more and Barack won the election soon after.
As First Lady Michelle made visits to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. She sent representatives to schools to advocate for public services. She supported Barack’s decisions in policies and bills by hosting events and making visits to places like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2009, she was named Barbara Walters Most Fascinating Person of the Year. She advocated on behalf of military families, helped working women balance career and motherly duties, encouraged national service, and promoted arts and arts education in schools.
In 2012, Michelle played a significant role in Barack’s second term campaign. She won him tons of female voters. During this time it was found that her public favorability rate was 69%. She was seen as the most popular political figure in America and the most popular member of the Obama administration. In April 2012, Michelle and her family were awarded with the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders Award by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. She later accepted the same award in May 2015 alongside Jill Biden, wife of former Vice President, Joe Biden. As First Lady she also addressed issues like child obesity, which is a growing U.S. public health crisis, and promoted food eating habits in the public schools. In May of 204, she joined a campaign to bring back kidnapped girls in Nigeria. She began an organic movement called Let’s Move!, which she hoped would help her goal in decreasing child obesity in the U.S. although being widely critiqued for it, she still works on this today to make a change in the public. She also made it public that she supports the LGBT community and their rights. It’s known that she is one of the people who influenced Barack Obama’s decision to make same sex marriage legal in 2016. She even stated, “This is an important issue for millions of Americans, and for Barack and me, it really comes down to the values of fairness and equality we want to pass down to our girls. These are basic values that kids learn at a very young age and that we encourage them to apply in all areas of their lives. And in a country where we teach our children that everyone is equal under the law, discriminating against same-sex couples just isn’t right. It’s as simple as that.” Michelle also showed her support in domestic travels and domestic rights movements and matches. She went to Mexico in April in 2010 while acting as First Lady to promote education, especially for young girls. Later in June 2011, she traveled on her own without her husband to Africa, where she participated in community events. This act, some say, might’ve helped her husbands foreign policy. Michelle has continuously been seen as a public role model for her dedication and involvement in politics, her advocacy for others, and her iconic fashion choices. People have even compared her to incredulous past First lady’s like Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy, saying that she will go down in history as one of the most influential and inspiring women of her time.
Michelle has written two incredible novels, American Grown and Becoming. American Grown, which was published in 2012, promotes healthy eating habits and documents the White House Garden, which Michelle fought administrations to make, through the season. Her second book, Becoming, was published in 2018 and tells her story, her roots, her discovery of her voice and confidence in herself, and her time at the White House as the First Lady and as a mother.