December 3, 2012
The Rise of the Role of the First Lady
Vibe magazine stated that, “Michelle Obama delivered one of the most poignant speeches in recent political history at the Democratic National Convention.” With all the attention placed on the office of the president sometimes we forget about the role and effect of the first lady. Often times, the First Lady takes a backseat to her husband, and the problems and policies that are important to him. This is not Michelle Obama. While she is careful not to steal her husband’s thunder, First Lady Obama is known to cause a storm all her own. She not only plays a dynamic role in President Obama’s presidency, but she also heads her own initiative, Let’s Go, to get kids active to combat childhood obesity. Born Michelle Robinson, First Lady Obama was raised by her mother and father on the South Side of Chicago. She learned to value hard work, service, and family. She has carried these values with her into her role as first lady. As First Lady, Michelle Obama’s first loyalties are to President Obama and their family. In the speech from the Democratic National Convention she said, “I see how these stories, our collection of struggles, and hopes and dreams, I see how that’s what drives Barack Obama every single day. And I didn’t think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago when we first met.” First Ladies experience a huge sacrifice when they have to give up their husbands so that they can serve the country, but with great sacrifice great reward will come in seeing your husband grow and falling more and more in love with him. Immediately following her loyalties to her family, First Lady Obama’s second responsibility is to this country. She has to serve the people, maintain a positive image, inform, and support her husband even in times of turmoil. Because, First Ladies and their rhetorical significance were overlooked in our textbook, my proposal is for further research on the role and significance of the First Lady. While being a First Lady is not an institutional role with a description in the constitution, there have been just as many First Ladies as there have been presidents and they each played a role. Our image of the First Lady, how she speaks and presents herself to the American people effects our political socialization. If nothing more it at least affects our view of the president himself. Also, with First Ladies having their own initiatives, they can use their political status to set the agenda, redefine issues, and persuade the American people to focus on certain issues. My specific proposal is to gather information on the transformation of the role of the first lady, and through surveys, polls, and analysis identify the rhetorical significance of the First Lady to the overall attitudes and efficacy of the American people. A lot of the research already done on First Ladies focuses on gender rather than political communication and it’s effectiveness. For example, Edwards article on how the first lady was portrayed in cartoons focuses on how she is portrayed as a woman rather than a political figure. Also Dulcie Straughan begins her article, First Ladies and the press: The unfinished partnership of the media age, with the words, “Calling first ladies the single most visible symbole of American womanhood…treats them as news makers in their own right” (Straughan, 2006). She ventures on to give the background of first ladies in the media. She acknowledges Eleanor Roosevelt as the first to have a relationship with the media (Straughan, 2006). She also notes further in the paragraph that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was the first to begin the first lady initiatives. She beautified the White House, while Nancy Reagan focused on just saying no to drugs, and Barbara Bush focused on education. The main focus of this research was to show how first ladies,...