January 20, 2009 dawned as a day filled with anticipation, excitement, hope and celebration as Barack Obama was sworn into office as our 44th president. It was a great day for America. And for most of it, with the exception of a workout, I sat planted firmly in front of a television with laptop and blackberry flipping between channels and websites in search of substance.
There was plenty of poignant commentary about history in the making and how far as a Nation we have traveled, and on the style of the day — the colors, the textures, the fabrics, and the designers. While this day was about the induction of a new president, too much weight was placed on appearance of his family. Women are fortunate in their unique ability to influence through both substance and style.
Throughout the day and evening all the talking heads focused on were the obvious striking good-looks and chic attire of Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama. Being dubbed the “First Lady of Style” the primary expectation, set by the news media, of Michelle Obama is that she is the savior of the apparel industry. Her choices of inauguration day outfits have been described as elegant, bold and challenging. The adjectives used to describe the Obama were beautiful, cute, angelic, and stylish. I searched doggedly to hear attributes such as elegant, bold and challenging in reference to their characters along with smart, determined, thoughtful, accomplished, hard-working, resilient, compassionate, strong and physically fit.
Prior to becoming First Lady, Michele Obama grew up on the south side of Chicago. Her parents imbued in her the importance of hard-work and education. She earned two Ivy League degrees — an undergraduate from Princeton and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She has relevant experience in both the private and public sectors. She is a lawyer by occupation. First and foremost, she says she is Malia and Sasha’s mom, and her first priority is in teaching and grounding her daughters to thrive.
A close male friend wrote yesterday “I would love to see women and motherhood become so mainstream that no one feels the need to append “mom” to their moniker.” I would as well.
First Ladies are always scrutinized for their appearance. It will be tragic and not progressive if all she is seen for is her style. The opportunity is to start recognizing her substance today.
As we enter this new era of responsibility, Michelle Obama will be an image setter. Let us examine and promote her core, her character and her national initiatives, as well as her style. It is her accomplishments and potential to affect changes that are vital, not her ability to drive sales of the fashion business.