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Michelle Obama: more than just the "mom-in-chief"?

President-elect Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama

In the weeks since her husband was elected president, Michelle Obama has been lauded as the “first lady of style" and hailed as the nation's new “Mom-in-chief.” Questions about her abound, but they're almost always in a domestic context.

"What kind of style will she bring to the White House?" reporters have asked. "What type of dog? What school will the kids attend?"

Fine questions all. But are we missing something?

Obama, after all, is a Harvard-educated lawyer. She has had an impressive career as an attorney and hospital executive. She has never been just a mother. She has never been just a wife. So why define her in those terms now?

It's a sticky question, complicated by the fact that the Obamas themselves seemed to push this narrative in the last months of the campaign. After all, when Obama stood onstage at the Democratic National Convention in August and delivered a speech intended to....

...introduce herself to the nation, she said little of her professional accomplishments, and instead cast herself as a good mother, wife, sister, daughter and American.

Previously, Obama had drawn criticism from the the left for "emasculating" her husband; then she took heat from the right, which accused her of seeming "anti-American." After the convention speech in Denver, where she put forth an image that seemed designed to counter those criticisms, reporters wrote that it helped quell some voters' fears about her.

These days a small chorus of journalists is calling for Obama to be treated more seriously. For example, Rebecca Traister, who writes about gender politics for Salon magazine, wonders "why is there so little curiosity about how Michelle will adjust to the loss of her own private, very successful, very high-profile and very independent identity?"

We at the Ticket wonder the same. True, we too have written about Michelle Obama's fashion savvy, her children, and even her favorite cookie recipes. So we'd now like to tell you about some other things she's done, outside of the house:

She majored in sociology and minored in African American studies at Princeton, where she graduated with honors.

She wrote a thesis on "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community"

She graduated from Harvard Law School.

She skipped the second grade.

She practiced law at the Chicago firm Sidley Austin. One summer, she was assigned to mentor a new associate. His name was Barack Obama.

-- Kate Linthicum The market for cellphone alerts on each new Ticket item is hot right now. Hundreds have registered here. You can too because we have plenty left.

Photo credit: Milbert O. Brown / Chicago Tribune

Comments () | Archives (2)

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Excellent article. I saw Lady Obama changing the narrative at the end of the campaign- proof that Black women still have to fight the strongblackwoman stereotype in order to be marginally accepted. I was wondering how bored she must be just taking care of the kids and measuring the drapes. I hope her immense mind and experience are not wasted on the alter of America's pathetic sexism.

Great article, thank you! If I am not mistaken, Michelle Obama will have been the most educated First Lady in the White House. I am so very impressed with both Michelle and the President Elect. They are a loving and caringfamily and their kids are great! I think they are excellent role models of the ideal family and one to which we should all aspire. Michelle will be a wonderful First Lady, she has much more to offer than setting style trends. It will be nice to see a presiden and first lady who actually SMILE at us and at the world. Can anyone remember GWB and Laura Bush actually smiling at us in all sincereity?? I sure cannot. All I have seen are very tight little smiles, almost like they are afraid to do so!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.



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