ISABELLA CROW ’19
Quick. Pick a power couple: Michelle and Barack Obama, or President Trump and his “First Babe,” Melania. These two presidential marriages could not be more different. For instance, the Trumps broke tradition when the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) and her son, Barron, continued to live in New York after the inauguration for the remainder of the academic year, while the Obamas maintained some thread of normalcy by moving into the White House as a family. On Thursday evening at the Bushnell, Michelle Obama described what it is to be normal while living in the White House, in her words, a challenge like “drinking from a fire hose.”
g from a fire hose.” In spite of riding to parent-teacher conferences in a motorcade, Michelle prioritized a sense of normalcy for her daughters. Furthermore, the Obamas prioritized the protection of their daughters’ privacy. Basically, Michelle prioritized her job as a parent, which should be a prerequisite for anyone in the While House. “I can’t speak about what all children should have if I’m not taking care of my children,” said the former FLOTUS while justifying her youth initiatives Let’s Move, Joining Forces, the Reach Higher Initiative, and Let Girls Learn.
Michelle’s outreach to the global community has inspired collective praise. A Pew poll asking Americans for one word to describe the former first lady recognized her as classy, intelligent, strong, and elegant. Her character reflects her upbringing and the Robinson family’s values. At the Bushnell, Michelle Obama persuaded her audience that she is the real deal: an all American girl-next-door. On stage, she wants to be the same person who she is at home, wearing jeans or sweaty clothes without wearing any makeup; she reflects the person she was raised to be. “My mother doesn’t play with phonies.”
Michelle commented on her origins, and she went on to describe her childhood spent in the south side of Chicago, just around the corner from the rest of middle America. In order to fulfill the American Dream, Michelle worked her way through Chicago public schools and earned degrees at Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
Now spin the globe around to Slovenia, a small country in Eastern Europe, the birthplace of Melania Knav. According to the White House website, Melania “paused her studies [at the University of Ljubljana] to advance her modeling career,” but her profile neglects to mention any resumption of Melania’s academic pursuits. After modeling in Paris and Milan, Melania moved to the United States, where, according to Associated Press, she worked ten modeling jobs in the United States in 1996, before receiving the proper work visa. It was not until 2001 that Melania obtained a green card legally enabling her to profit from modeling. On which side Donald Trump’s infamous wall should she live, Mr. President?
To this end, how should most American citizens relate to FLOTUS Melania? Unlike most Americans, she lived in another country for the better half of her life. After two years in the US, she met the multibillionaire whom she would marry in the midst of a tumultuous relationship. How many Americans have children that will inherit hundreds of millions of dollars and have super models as mothers? Does Barron think that is normal? In any event, the Obamas met working at the Chicago law firm Sidley and Austin. After a few years, Michelle changed her focus from her first job out of law school to civil and community services. Before she became the First Lady, she aimed to bring the University of Chicago closer to the community. After President Obama’s inauguration, she brought with her a vision of community action and applied it to her philanthropic initiatives in America and worldwide.
Consider Melania Trump’s profile on the White House website. There are only 423 words written on the current FLOTUS’s profile and over 40% of the content focuses on her priority as a being fashion icon, but what else could she do without a college degree? Only 37% of that profile explored her philanthropic initiatives, focusing more on the publicity she received than the contributions she made. For every philanthropic initiative listed, more than three big names in the fashion or the press are mentioned, emphasizing the priority of her modeling career.
By the time Barack Obama was inaugurated, Michelle’s accomplishments in her vocational passion for civil and community services were already great enough outshine Melania’s intentions as FLOTUS. By staying married to Donald Trump, she walks backward in the feminist movement. Does the FLOTUS understand what it takes to make America worth living in? What does America expect of the FLOTUS whose story is kept behind the curtains of Trump’s marionette show? Although she is not an elected official, the FLOTUS inherently commits herself to performing public service and being a role model for women across the nation and around the world.
To what degree is Melania a victim of patriarchal society and mainstream media pushing women to strive for the unachievable standard of mythical beauty? Only time will tell if she can cleanse the American people of her husband’s vial influence degrading women. In the words of Michelle Obama, “The White House doesn’t change you. It reveals who you are.”