Since the moment her husband took the oath of office, Michelle Obama has charted a course of a activities and causes that most other US First Ladies can only envy.
The Harvard trained lawyer, community activist, wife and mother moved into the White House on January 22 and in the first 100 days she has championed women\’s rights, education, healthy foods, members of the US armed forces, and the downtrodden.
She has travelled the world stage, journeyed throughout the United States, and visited numerous agencies and locations in Washington, DC as her husband shouldered responsibilities of governing.
Family \’most important\’
But her primary responsibility, she has said, remains the raising of her two daughters, and the relationship she has with her husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Though some have elevated her as a style icon for her fashion sense, the 45 year old mother and political confidante has surprised even her ardent supporters in the speed with which she has set about to establish her community priorities.
She reportedly delighted Britain\’s Queen Elizabeth and received an overwhelming reception at a girls school in Islington, north London while her husband attended the G-20 meetings in April.
At that school, she defined herself as someone who had to work hard to achieve much, and she encouraged her audience to do the same.
“I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world. And you, too, with these same values can control your own destiny. You, too, can pave the way,” she said.
Liza Mundy is a reporter and biographer of Michelle Obama confirms this personal theme.
“She repeatedly says to people, \’you know, there\’s nothing special about me, there\’s no particular reason why I\’m here, except, in part, that I worked really hard.\’ And, I think, she worries about children,” Mundy says.
She says early on Mrs. Obama was able to pick up some of the ceremonial duties for her husband while he established himself in the Oval Office.
“She\’s been pretty quick off the mark, I think. That\’s more than one word, but it\’s a phrase, at least. She sort of got started, she got out there talking to federal agencies and kind of working on behalf of her husband earlier, I think, than people thought she would. I thought she would take a while to get her family settled into Washington.
But she was really out there on the hustings,” Mundy added.
Tribute to soldiers
One of the areas where Michelle Obama has made a commitment is to those Americans serving in uniform, not only in the United States, but throughout the world.
Some Obama watchers suggest this is because she knows what its like to be alone while a loved one is away for long periods of time, whether serving in the Senate, campaigning or serving in the Armed Forces.
One of her first trips outside Washington, DC, was to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she met with soldiers and families of the United States Airborne paratroopers.
Not only did she bring greetings from her husband, but she also brought her warm smile, her commitment and her willingness to listen and add a personal touch.
“She is just such a down-to-earth, beautiful person. She\’s a God blessed sent person to us and it was just wonderful to shake my President\’s wife\’s hand, ” said Freddie Williams , one of the women who waited several hours to see the First Lady.
\’Typical American family\’
In the first 100 days, the new American First Family is projecting the image of what many consider the typical American family, with two children and a dog.
“Bo,” the Portuguese water dog, introduced to the media in mid-April, is the latest addition to the family.
With daughters Malia, age 12 and Sasha, age 7, The President and Mrs Obama introduced the dog on the South Lawn of the White House.
It\’s a long way from her home on the South Side of Chicago and the neighbourhood Michelle Robinson grew up in.
The youngest of two children from the marriage of Fraser and Marian Robinson, she enjoyed challenging her older brother and developing a sense of community and individual worth from her parents.
Her father developed multiple sclerosis at a young age, but continued to work for the Chicago Water Department, rarely missing a day.
Her mother stayed home to raise the two children, and today, resides in the White House to help raise her two granddaughters.
Lawyer by trade
After law school, a strong commitment to her community brought Michelle Obama back to the South Side of Chicago where she and her daughters were born.
She began her career in a law firm, and soon found herself doing community outreach work for the University of Chicago.
Michelle Obama has pledged to continue that outreach work in the Washington, DC, community, and during the first 100 days she has read to local elementary school students, accompanied her husband in various official duties, while all the time maintaining a sense of humour.
While many who meet her say Michelle Obama is a special person, the First Lady resists that category, insisting that her road to the White House has been paved with hard work.
Michelle Obama has set out to define her tenure at the White House as an activist, community oriented First Lady, while raising two daughters and being the confidante of the President.
She has set a high bar early on, yet many observers believe she\’ll accomplish whatever goals she sets for herself and those around her.
In the first 100 days, Michelle Obama stayed out of the policy arena to focus on those projects that offer the country a new vision of volunteering, self-worth, and accomplishment.
While these may be termed “First Lady projects”, there seems little doubt after 100 days that she will approach each one with her trademark commitment and charm.