7 Things We'd Love to See Mrs. Obama Do Now

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(The Root) — First lady Michelle Obama has already started off her husband's first term with a bang — literally. Her husband even joked that her new hairstyle, featuring freshly cut bangs, upstaged him during inauguration week. But now that the president has begun to lay out his agenda for his new term, the question many have been left wondering is what the first lady's own second-term agenda will be.


Based on an analysis of her recent schedule, a conservative blogger posited that the first lady had abandoned her "Let's Move" health and fitness campaign. This idea was quickly debunked by a White House tweet about "Let's Move" shortly thereafter. But the speculation has left many wondering what else she will do. Well, we have a few ideas.

1. Take on the Family-Planning Fight

Though Mrs. Obama lent her name to controversial reproductive rights battles early in her husband's career, she has tended to sidestep controversial issues throughout her tenure as first lady. Now that her husband has been safely re-elected, the timing is ideal for her to wade back into the family-planning debate.


While abortion rights may remain controversial, she could follow the lead of Melinda Gates, who is using the platform her husband's wealth and power has provided her to make contraception access a human right for all women — not just wealthy and privileged ones.

This is one issue where millions of American women would benefit if Mrs. Obama were to follow Mrs. Gates' example. The White House's ongoing battle with religious employers over contraception access for female employees, and the sky-high ratio of out-of-wedlock births among African Americans, make it clear that this is an issue where a powerful African-American female voice within the White House could make a profound difference. 

2. Judge Project Runway

While the first lady has been celebrated as a fashion icon, the White House has always aimed for a delicate balance in her public image. She has to look good, but not so good that people obsess over the potential tax dollars spent on how good she looks.


While some of the president's advisers worried about her appearing on the cover of Vogue in his first term, they no longer have to worry about such matters in his second. For this reason, she can afford to have more fun with fashion, with little worry about the impact on her — or her husband's — image. Heidi Klum has called the first lady a dream judge for Project Runway, and there are plenty of fans who probably agree. Besides, she has already appeared on The Biggest Loser and teamed up with Top Chef for an event.

3. Help Elect the First (or Second, Third or Fourth) Female President

Despite her nondenial denials, it is a widely considered fact that President Obama's presidential-campaign-foe-turned-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be running to become his presidential successor. But even if Hillary Clinton shatters one of America's last remaining glass ceilings, the fact will remain that despite being a majority of the population, women remain woefully underrepresented in government, and women of color even more so.


That changes only if more women are recruited and encouraged to run for office — but also, and perhaps more important, if girls are encouraged to do so as well. There are a number of organizations focused on increasing the presence of women in the halls of power, but if those organizations had a high-profile woman of color — such as one already in the White House — taking the lead in encouraging women to run, who knows? We might not just see a woman in the White House in 2016; there may be an African-American little girl who, thanks to a high-profile role model today, ends up in the White House in 2036.

Science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields are widely considered the keys to America's economic future, yet girls remain widely underrepresented in these fields, as do racial minorities. The first lady could do with STEM what she did with exercise through "Let's Move": make math and science seem fun and cool because she says so.


5. Tackle Race and the Dropout Rate

In some areas, barely half of African-American males graduate from high school. This issue likely falls under the same umbrella as unemployment — a reality that disproportionately affects black Americans — but the White House had to kind of act as if these matters didn't hit blacks harder in order to avoid being seen as "pro-black" or "anti-white" during the president's first term.


Now that the Obamas no longer have to worry about such concerns affecting the president's re-election, it would be great to see America's "mom in chief" tackle this issue with the same aplomb with which she tackled America's health and fitness issues.

6. Hold Hollywood Accountable

Tipper Gore, wife of almost-President Al, was the last high-profile political wife to challenge Hollywood to set better standards for the sex and violence in the entertainment we consume, but she shouldn't be the last. When it was pointed out that many of the celebrities touting gun control after the Newtown massacre brandished weapons in violent films, the hypocrisy of some liberals in the gun control debate was laid bare.


That doesn't mean Hollywood is responsible for mass shootings, but it also doesn't mean that Hollywood deserves zero accountability. If the White House wants to be taken seriously on the gun control debate, it would help to have at least one bad cop who is willing to gently nudge Tinseltown on where it could use some cleaning up on-screen. If the president doesn't want to play that role (or is too afraid of his Hollywood friends to do so), then I'm sure his Mrs. could handle the heat.

7. Make Manners Matter

Compared with the other topics, this may not seem particularly important. Yet recent polls show that Americans believe manners are much worse today than they were 20 to 30 years ago. (Quick test: When was the last time you received a thank-you note? When was the last time you received one from someone younger than you?)


Not to let boys off the hook, but from excessive swearing to the basics of "please" and "thank you," think about how much better off America's schools would be if our first lady spent time reminding girls who haven't been shown by their parents how a real lady behaves.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter

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