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We’re going to miss Michelle Obama: an ode to the first African American first lady

COMMENTARY

By Jessica Swink

Can we now take the time to show our love for first lady Michelle Obama? She’s shown grace, compassion, intelligence, and style in the eight years we’ve gotten to know her. She’s fun and she always slays. I love her homegirl-from-around-the-way-swag mixed with the class of a pragmatic scholar.

Mrs. Obama has degrees from both Princeton University and Harvard University. She made history when she became the first African-American first lady of the United States. Her sense of fashion is off the charts. She has shown us countless times how much she cares for the well-being of all Americans. Whether it be children with her Let’s Move! campaign, the LGBTQ community with her support for same-sex marriage, or the equality of women with the Let Girls Learn initiative, it’s clear that she has a big heart. I adore how President Barack Obama lovingly looks at his wife like it’s their wedding day all over again. (Even Beyoncé loves her!) All gushing aside, it’s clear to see that our first lady will be overwhelmingly missed by many.

In 2008, I was a 20-year-old college student who was finally able to vote in my first presidential election. After researching options, I was nearly instantly drawn to Barack Obama, in part because of the enthusiasm and passion I saw that he and his wife shared about the present and future of America. I saw a couple who believed that while the state of the U.S. might not be the best currently, we as a unified nation have the strength and power within ourselves to change it for the better. When Barack Obama won, while I was certain and confident that he would do an excellent job, I was also interested to see the things Michelle would do as first lady. I wasn’t disappointed.

She took on the position of first lady with a style and grace that blew me away. However, it seemed like many needlessly mocked her over things like showing her arms, promoting healthy eating habits during school lunches, and even her blackness. I saw Michelle Obama as welcoming, gracious, and someone who could and did rise above it all. She was a family woman, someone who stood behind her husband, and loved and nurtured her children.

First Lady Michelle Obama attends the Spelman College commencement at Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, Ga., May 15, 2011. During her commencement address Mrs. Obama said, “I am so proud of you, all of you. We are so proud of you. Do big things.” (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

First Lady Michelle Obama attends the Spelman College commencement at Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, Ga., May 15, 2011. During her commencement address Mrs. Obama said, “I am so proud of you, all of you. We are so proud of you. Do big things.” (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

She inspired me and looked like me. I also saw a woman who wanted the people of her country to be well-educated. As the daughter, niece, and cousin of educators, as well as a tutor myself, it was beyond refreshing to see. Best of all, it seemed like she brought back a sense of whimsy and fun to the White House.

As we get ready to accept a change in the presidency, it’s hard not to feel a sense of mourning over the Obamas leaving. They clearly left their mark on history and their presence will be felt for decades to come. Together, their youthfulness, gusto, and history-making administration has me wanting more. I find mysef heavily disappointed saddened, and shocked by the upcoming installation of power, but I plan to remember Michelle’s now iconic quote to help me through the next four years: “When they go low, we go high.”

 

Jessica Swink is a tutor and writer who lives in Tyler. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas at Tyler.

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