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Four writers published open letters in The New York Times reflecting on First Lady Michelle Obama’s impact on American society and the modern presidency.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the novel Americanah, recalled her anxiety when the First Lady stepped to the podium to address the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The writer prayed that Obama would deliver a perfect speech to quiet the doubters and the haters.

It was no secret that Obama had no desire to enter the limelight, yet she rose to the occasion and became one of the most engaged first ladies in American history, Adichie noted. She quietly addressed childhood obesity and education, all while becoming a “style icon.”

Eight years after her first speech to the DNC, delegates gave her a rock star welcome at the 2016 Party convention.

“She was relaxed, emotional, sentimental. Her uncertainties laid to rest. Her rhythm was subtler, because she no longer needed it as her armor, because she had conquered,” wrote Adichie.

At the convention, FLOTUS spoke comfortably about “slaves” and “Black boys” in a way that was impossible in 2008. Over the years, the writer said, Michelle Obama helped to move the nation forward, a little at a time, so that we could have that kind of conversation.

The feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem also praised the First Lady for her ability to be a mother—“insisting on regular family dinners”—as a champion of national health issues, and a political ally for her husband, President Barack Obama, making him a more effective leader. She juggled all of that, said Steinem, while also deflecting racial bias.

Echoing Steinem, Rashida Jones, a writer and actress, said Michelle “embodies the modern, American woman.” Jones applauded Obama for her unique ability to perform multiple roles while remaining authentic.

“If feminism’s goal is equal opportunity and choice, Michelle makes me feel like every choice is available,” Jones wrote.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham wrote in his letter that the First Lady has been the secret sauce in the president’s ability to handle eight years of harsh criticism “coolly.”

“She has chosen her shots carefully,” wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, deftly balancing her nonpartisan public work with political throwing counterpunches at the president’s critics.

He added: “My own view is that both the president and the first lady have conducted themselves splendidly in the White House, managing the most difficult of tasks with apparent ease: projecting a grace that masked the ambition and the drive that took them, at early ages, to the pinnacle of American life.”

SOURCE: New York Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty


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