Why Stop at First Lady?

How many women do you know who get home too late to tuck their kids in every night? How many women do you know who call and ask their husband what’s for dinner? The working woman is no longer an anomaly. She sees the world, wrought with its modern quandaries, as her own personal challenge. At a time when women and men are working side by side, each pulling their weight in the workforce, why is it that the most prominent woman in our country would incur the wrath of the American public if she were to do the same? Who is the first lady? The term was coined at Dolley Madison’s funeral in 1849, when United States President Zachary Taylor used the phrase to describe her. Since then, almost every wife or partner of the President has been called this. The first lady is a symbol of the American woman and the American mother. She is a supporter, a helper and a friend to all. But the definition somehow stops there. What should the first lady do all day? During Laura Bush’s eight years as First Lady, you could not say she was a full time mother. By the time George W. Bush ’64 was sworn in, their daughters were in college, and certainly not living in the White House. Although some would say that Michelle Obama is in a different situation, with two daughters in elementary school, the time is ripe for the first lady to look for a job. Michelle Obama has had her own life, her own career and her own plans for the world. Raised on the south side of Chicago, she overcame financial and personal obstacles to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Following law school, she was an associate at the Chicago office of the law firm Sidley Austin, where she first met her husband. Such a woman is undoubtedly an asset to the federal government in her current position. However, the moment she stepped onto the threshold of the White House, the world perceived her differently. She was no longer Michelle Obama; she was Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama and first lady of the United States of America. With that position comes certain social and political power. But, as a modern woman who is used to facing the world’s many challenges, should Michelle Obama have to give up her own profession to support her husband’s wave for change? As we segue into an important new chapter in American history, it is time to reexamine our values. As the most prominent woman in the United States, Michelle Obama stands on the precipice of showing the world who the American Woman can be. Mrs. Obama is a confident, intelligent and well-respected woman, worthy of the title she has been given. And yet, is that really enough? Should a First lady simply settle for the fact that her husband is the most important man in the free world? Perhaps we should reexamine the possibility that you should not have to abandon your own ability to affect change to become First lady. Thea Raymond-Sidel is a Junior from Iowa City, Iowa.