Preach, Michelle: 5 Things We Want to Hear From the First Lady

In her husband’s second term, we are hoping that a no-holds-barred Mrs. Obama will re-emerge.

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But Americans haven’t gotten a glimpse of that Michelle Obama in nearly five years. So here is a list of what some of us Michelle Obama fans would like to hear from her now that she no longer has to worry about her public image as a super-strong, super-fierce black woman who might cost her husband votes.

1. “A lot of the criticism of my husband is racist.”

One of the reasons President Obama was able to win election twice is the ease with which he downplayed the role of racism during his campaigns. During the 2008 election, he tended to dismiss the fact that he might lose votes because of his race, treating it as no more worth considering than losing votes for any number of superficial reasons, like his large ears he often jokes about.

But we know better. We know that while not all of the criticism directed at the president is racially motivated, some of it is. We are not the only ones. His wife knows it, too. But so far she’s been too politically savvy to really go there out loud. But now that they are in their final term, it would be refreshing if she did.

2. “I care about issues besides healthy eating, gardening and water.”

A first lady’s platform is often what defines her legacy. (Think Nancy Reagan and “Just say no!”) Although childhood obesity is a serious issue, as is healthy drinking water, there are other issues that matter and about which the first lady could make a difference. Some of them are controversial. For instance, President Obama made waves in 2008 when he explained that part of why he supports reproductive rights is that “I've got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby.”

Michelle Obama is also on the record as supporting reproductive rights in recent years as Planned Parenthood has been under attack, but she has waded into the issue only tepidly. With African-American and poor women more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births and to raise families in poverty—not to mention the high AIDS rates among black Americans—her voice could go a long way toward making a difference on issues of reproductive and sexual health.

If only she’d use it more.

3. “I want to see a black woman on the Supreme Court.”

It was widely reported that former first lady Laura Bush played a role in convincing her husband to consider nominating a woman, attorney Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court. Though Miers ended up withdrawing from consideration, the first lady’s private advocacy on her behalf was a reminder of the often quiet power that a first lady can wield.

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