Every first lady has left her mark on the White House in one way or another, but only a handful have emerged as icons. Michelle Obama is, without question, an icon.
Beyond the historical neutron bomb that it meant for a Black family to preside over the White House — a living museum built by enslaved men and women like those from whom Michelle Obama descended — she was definitional. Whether it was her clothes, her cultivation of music and the arts, her featuring and celebrating Black culture in the White House, or her focus on military families and children’s health and nutrition, Michelle Obama redefined what it meant to be a first lady.
For Black families, Michelle Obama made the White House our house. We felt like we knew her — as if a favorite cousin had married the president. For all Americans, she updated the notion of what the partner of a powerful man looked and sounded like. She was a career woman in her own right, an attorney and a mom, and at one point, her husband’s superior at work and the one bringing home more money. She was the president’s conscience and sounding board, pushing him to do and say more on issues like the killing of Trayvon Martin. Her presence challenged America’s long-preconceived notions about Black womanhood, motherhood, and personhood.
We miss her presence in the White House and at the forefront of the national spotlight every day.
“If I were asked to describe Michelle Obama in two words, I’d say: grace and brilliance,” Karine Jean-Pierre replies about how she would describe the former first lady. Jean-Pierre worked on the 2008 Obama campaign and in the White House. She calls Michelle Obama not just an icon, but also a “role model and a person women and girls around the world can look up to.” She…