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The untouchable legacy of Michelle Obama

The untouchable legacy of Michelle Obama

The untouchable legacy of Michelle Obama
October 19
11:26 2016

This article is one of several stories we’ll publish exploring how Barack Obama’s presidency has impacted young people.

If Barack Obama is one of our best presidents, Michelle would have to be one of the best first ladies. Last Thursday, for example, she delivered a powerful New Hampshire speech in lieu of Donald Trump’s mistreatment of women.

“I can’t believe I’m saying a candidate for president of the United States has actually bragged out sexually assaulting women,” Michelle said. While putting the plight of womanhood into perspective — where virtually every female faces the threat of forced advances — Michelle described Trump’s political tactics as abnormal, “disgraceful” and “intolerable.”

So why is it that after slandering minorities, attempting to delegitimize the president’s birthplace and doing a lot of eye-rolling, Donald Trump hasn’t tried to excoriate Michelle Obama? Because after two terms of supporting her family and multiple social movements, Michelle has built an untouchable legacy for herself, which extends far beyond her husband’s shadow.

For the past eight years, the lawyer-turned-first lady has become a fashion icon as well as a role model for the millennials that grew up watching her. Not only does she have the optimism and intellect of a Lady Bird Johnson or an Eleanor Roosevelt, but evokes beauty, grace and elegance comparable to Jackie Kennedy or even Princess Diana.

As our first presidential wife of color, she broke the mold for a country that was too comfortable with “angry black woman” caricatures. Sure, one of America’s first female millionaires was black (Madam C.J. Walker) and the first black woman in space (Mae Jemison) had a tremendous hand in NASA’s ‘90s work. However, Michelle Obama was the first person of her kind to be a positive image in the White House, devoid of any marital scandals or maternal negativity toward her daughters.

In her Democratic National Convention speech, she even mentioned how she wakes “up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” While her comment garnered substantial conservative backlash, it’s a truthful sentiment that exemplifies how much the American Dream has progressed.

Aside from making racial history, her advocacy for nutrition, aiding veterans and improving international education for young women led into the launches of several official initiatives.

In 2011, Michelle and the second lady, Jill Biden, launched “Joining Forces” to provide higher education and job opportunities to military members and their families. The initiative gave new awareness to veteran aid reforms, which are important because 11 percent of U.S. veterans are homeless, 50 percent have mental illnesses and 70 percent suffer from substance abuse, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

In 2015, she teamed up with Barack to create “Let Girls Learn,” which encourages adolescent girls around the world to receive higher education. Since more than 62 million females are not in school, according to the mandate’s web page, the Obamas seek to lower rates of diseases and mortality through these international means.

When historians look back on Michelle Obama’s work, they’ll recognize a strong woman who worked alongside Barack as a teammate, rather than a matrimonial trophy. For this reason, Trump can’t publicly ridicule her. He can take all the jabs he wants at Hillary Clinton, who’s made too many questionable choices to be left alone. He’s welcome to mock President Obama since he’s taken hits from Republicans throughout both terms.

But Michelle? Her disconnect from politics and participation in everything else leaves her reputation unblemished. Because she’s “black” and “female,” rising above the stereotypes of both, it would be disadvantageous to Trump’s low polling numbers if he attempted to deride her popularity.

Standing among our greatest first ladies, Michelle Obama has inspired a generation predicated on seeing change. Thanks to both Obamas, we’ve witnessed several movements evolve in the right direction.

Her speech from last week simply confirms that.

Featured Image: Michelle Obama. Bob Nichols | Courtesy

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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