As the Obama transition out of the White House, we can start to gauge the impact of Michelle Obama on the office of First Lady and her role in American history.
From the outset, her status in history books was already assumed to be set: she would be the first African-American first lady.
But it is clear that her impact on society transcends and expands beyond just that single fact.
Entering the White House in 2009, Michelle made clear her first focus was on the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, who were 10 and 7 at the time. Michelle’s initial travel and event schedule was quieter than prior first ladies, in order to allow her to spend more time with her daughters.
However, on a trip to London that year, Obama realized the influence and empowerment she could bestow through her position, especially with children and especially disadvantaged youth.
“If you want to know the reason why I’m standing here, it’s because of education. I loved getting A’s. I liked being smart. I loved being on time. I loved getting my work done. I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world,” she said on that trip. This message would be the backbone of her message as First Lady throughout her time in the White House.
Obama started to “turn the needle” to spend time and effort with projects such as childhood obesity, education, veterans and military families, healthy eating, the Let’s Move! Initiative, and even creating a White House garden.
At the dedication of the garden, Obama said:
“This garden has taught us that if we have the courage to plant a seed, just be brave enough to plant it, then take care of it, water it, tend to it, invite friends to help us take care of it, weather the storms that inevitably come, if we have the courage to do that, we never know what might grow. Now that’s what this garden has taught me, to be fearless in those efforts, to try some new things, to not be afraid to mess up. Things we tell our kids all the time.”
Even when she becomes former first lady, Michelle Obama has cemented that message in the lives of millions of Americans and people across the globe.