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A Force to Be Reckoned With

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A Force to be Reckoned with

Brigham Young once said, “You educate a man, you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” Women have been educating future generations since the beginning of time. Women are so important to the world, it saddens me to think that it took hundreds of years for men and society to understand that. Even today, some people still overlook this.  Women can change the world just as much as a man can, if not more. One woman is doing just that, she is changing our nation and she has one of the most recognized names in our nation and in the world, First Lady Michelle Obama.

What comes to mind when you hear Michelle Obama? First Lady, First African American First Lady, obesity rates, military aides, style icon, arms, etc. are more of the nicer side of things that can come to mind when you hear it.  Honestly, most people would just say, First Lady, or specifically First African American First Lady. That is exactly how we got to know her, that and that her husband, current president Barack Obama is the first African American President ever. However, Michelle Obama is so much more than just a first lady, although it has definitely given her a lot more attention now that she has that title. Throughout this paper we will explore what she has contributed to this nation and how she is changing the world and making friends and enemies while doing so.  

Before we can get into her contributions and ultimately why she matters at all, we have to briefly look into her background. A persons’ background says a lot about how and why a person is the way they are in the present. This is the same case with everyone. As for Michelle Obama, maiden name Robinson, she grew up with both parents and a brother in working class neighborhood in Chicago. “Her mother, Marian, brought workbooks home to keep her children ahead of their classes.” (Powell and Kantor 1). This in turn led Michelle and her brother both to be able to make it into Princeton University in 1981 with Michelle studying sociology and African American studies. This was during a time where blacks and whites still did not like to associate themselves with each other. (Powell, Kantor 1) After Princeton, Michelle went to and graduated from Harvard Law school in 1988 and took a job at a corporate law firm. (Powell, Kantor 2)  Soon after, her father died and she gave up her corporate job for another career “motivated by passion and not just money” (Powell and Kantor 2). She has been trying to change the world ever since college, starting in her own neighborhood. She met Barack back when she was working at the corporate law firm and they wed in 1992. They now have 2 daughters, Sasha, 13 and Malia, 16. Of course, she has other things she’s done and other things that has happened that has shaped her but just this brief background will do.

For the rest the paper, I am going to focus on three key things that Michelle Obama is known for and are criticized for, which are her ideas to lower obesity rates and to promote health, her as a role model, and her style. These are the most debated subjects of her career so far. She being in the public eye all the time and her being so vocal has both been a blessing and a burden to her.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% of children and 34.9% of adults in the United States suffer from obesity.  (CDC 1) That is a lot of people in the one country if you compare these numbers to those of the United Kingdom, China, or South Korea. After noticing that the numbers have kept increasing, Mrs. Obama decided to focus a lot of her energy on lowering the obesity rate. She decided to focus on children because they are the future of this nation. So in 2010, she started the Let’s Move! Initiative whose goal is “to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.” (Letsmove.gov 1) This initiative has made a lot of schools change their menus and it promotes exercising for kids, at least that what a lot of people know it as. I know from personal experience that many of the kids in school did not like the change that was going on with their food choices.

When I was in high school, I was pretty oblivious to the news and politics so I did not exactly know what was going on except that we had elected our first African American President. I only started to notice when all of a sudden, one day, our school vending machines no longer carried sodas like Pibb or Coke and now they carried Powerades and lemonade. Same thing with the food vending machines, good-bye rice crispies, hello rice cakes. Suddenly, vending machines during lunch were not as popular as before. We did not know what was going on. It all made sense when one day, the school had a random physical day where everyone during English period, had to “run” a mile and be timed for it. This was all around 2010 and one of our teachers told us “Y’all are getting fat so the government is doing something about it”. Then it all made sense, when I saw it on the news. Even Nickelodeon, a channel I watched very frequently, actually dedicated a whole day to just exercising with Michelle Obama leading the program. If I remember correctly, there was also a day when Nickelodeon shut down its station for a few hours to promote kids to go out and exercise. Back then, it did not urge me to go out and exercise, it just made me annoyed that I had to look for a new channel to watch or bring my own snacks to school. Things were slowly but surely, changing throughout the schools and districts. That is when the Michelle Obama exercise jokes started. Even today, there are still memes around the internet of Michelle Obama and exercise or health jokes. I did not understand it back then but it was for the better. This was the first time I noticed Michelle Obama in the news, this is the first time I thought, “she’s different, she’s ambitious, she’s nuts (in a good way)”.

Many people such as parents, caregivers, and politicians have shown support for Mrs. Obama’s Lets Move! Initiative and it has gotten a lot of publicity. According to a survey by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, “more than eight out of 10 Americans say they have heard of ‘Let’s Move!’” (Kane, Chanoine 1) Mrs. Obama made many show appearances on the shows of Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, and Ellen to promote Let’s Move! Everyone does not support this initiative though; critics say that this may cause self-esteem issues or that it is just another way for the Obama administration to meddle into the private lives of everyday Americans. (Kane, Chanoine 1) Apparently the group that opposed it most is actually the kids themselves. Which actually makes sense because as a kid, they are not thinking, “ooo I want to be healthy”, they are thinking about playing games and eating junk and fatty foods. Although the initiative has had its’ criticism, it does seem the be working in the sense that its bringing awareness. Kids are eating healthier, which has led parents to eat healthier to set a good example for their kids.



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