Brisbane Airport BNE Issue 5 - page 9

First Lady with star power
BNE October/November 2014 |
9
COVER STORY
W
hen world leaders arrive in Brisbane
for the G20 Leaders Summit as many
eyes will be on the partners who
accompany them as on the leaders themselves.
Michelle Obama, in particular, is likely to attract
attention, and not just because of her statuesque
1.8m height and sense of style that has been
scrutinised the world over.
The First Lady of the United States has a
popular following and, as her husband serves his
final term in office, speculation is rife she may
pursue a senatorial campaign of her own. Forbes
listed her at number 8 in its annual list of most
powerful women of the world earlier this year,
reporting that her approval rating (at 66 per cent)
is higher than the President’s (at 44 per cent).
It’s true that she gets to do a lot of fun stuff.
She was a presenter at the Academy Awards
and she’s appeared on popular television
shows, dancing with Ellen and playing up with
Jimmy Fallon. She’s been photographed doing
everything from tai chi to Bollywood dancing,
from yoga and skipping to even tug’o’war and
potato sack racing. But there is a serious side
to all the fun and games. In 2010 when Barack
Obama created a task force on childhood obesity
his wife Michelle launched a health initiative
called Let’s Move with an ambitious goal to
reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.
The campaign has received wide support
and a high profile with the help of celebrities
including Ellen De Generes and Fallon, and
Michelle Obama has travelled widely to schools
and communities to encourage participation.
When she launched the program, Obama told
the
New York Times
that she hopes it will be
her legacy. “I want to leave something behind
that we can say ‘because of this time this person
spent here, this thing has changed’ and my hope
is that that’s going to be in the area of childhood
obesity,” she said.
She also has been a champion for healthy
eating, planting the first kitchen garden at the
White House which sees a steady stream of
children pass through to help with the gardening,
alongside Obama. Bee hives have also been
installed in the White House gardens and the
produce they generate is used for state dinners
and official events. In 2012 Obama launched a
book about her experiences with the garden and
promoting healthy eating.
One of her latest initiatives is to encourage
students to continue their education beyond
high school and, for that, Obama is a perfect
role model. In her first official international
engagement as First Lady Obama told school
students in England that she “liked being smart”.
“I never cut class, I liked being on time, I liked
“We were raised with the belief that with a
good education and a whole lot of hard work
there was nothing we couldn’t do”
Michelle Obama
is active in promoting healthy lifestyle and a good education and
it’s earned her an approval rating higher than her husband’s
getting my work done, I liked getting As,” she
said. She told the audience of young women
that she was raised with the belief that with a
good education and a whole lot of hard work
there was nothing she couldn’t do. Neither of
her parents had been to university but Obama
graduated from Princeton and then Harvard
Law School.
Obama says she has had good role models of
her own. “I am an example of what’s possible
when girls from the very beginning of their lives
are loved and nurtured by the people around
them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women
in my life: grandmothers, teachers, aunts,
cousins and neighbours who taught me about
quiet strength and dignity. My mother, the most
important role model in my life, lives with us
in the White House and helps to care for our
daughters Sasha and Malia and she has an active
presence in their lives as well as in mine, instilling
them with the same values that she taught
me and my brother; things like compassion,
integrity, confidence and perseverance.”
Obama’s openness about her family life in
interviews has won her many fans. When she
fronted a Working Families Summit with
her husband at the White House earlier this
year the couple were candid about their own
experiences of balancing work and family.
The media has repeated often Michelle’s
story about going to a job interview with
her newborn daughter when she couldn’t get
a babysitter.
“I was wearing my nursing shirt. I told my
boss ‘this is what I have: two small kids, my
husband is away. I will not work part-time,
I need flexibility, I need to be able to afford
babysitting, and if you can do all that and you
are willing to be flexible with me I will get
the job done. I can work hard on a flexible
schedule’.” She got the job and later became one
of its senior management team.
In January this year Michelle Obama turned
50 but she was not fazed. “I have never felt more
confident in myself, more clear of who I am as
a woman. But I am constantly thinking about
my own health and making sure that I am eating
right, getting exercise and watching aches and
pains. I want to be this really fly 80 or 90-year-
old,” she told an interviewer.
Image: The White House/Chuck Kennedy
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