Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention, Sept. 4.



The Metamorphosis of First Lady Obama (La Stampa, Italy)


"At the Democratic National Convention, she left the stage to a standing ovation, with her head bowed, without overdoing it - aware, perhaps, that the true revolution can be found in her, a girl from the Black ghetto standing at the heart of White power, and that the game is not yet over."


By Mario Calabresi



Translated by Kate Townsend


September 21, 2012


Italy - La Stampa - Original Article (Italian)

The president and first lady hold hands, as they walk back to the White House after a ceremony to commemorate the Sept. 11 attacks.


C-SPAN VIDEO: First lady Michelle Obama speaks to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Sept. 4, 00:25:40RealVideo

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA: At the Democratic National Convention, she took the stage to reassure the nation's Democrats that her husband hasn't changed, that power has not corrupted his character or his convictions, and that Barack Obama is still the same man that she fell in love with years ago - a man bound by his ideals who would pick her up for dates “in a car so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by in a hole in the passenger side door.” But if Obama has remained the same, it is you, Michelle, who are a different person.


Four years ago, before arriving at the White House and before the presidential race, Michelle Robinson was a woman with a radical creed, who spoke with a loud voice. Ironic, sharp-tongued, and sarcastic, she had some severe and unpleasant things to say about America. Her personal story clearly distinguishes her from her husband's: no Hawaii, no White mother and grandparents like Barack. Instead, her father was a blue-collar worker, and she experienced the hardships of growing up in the Black ghetto of Chicago.


Instead, on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, she spoke in a soft, and in some moments an almost imperceptible voice, and had a polite, persuasive manner: perfect "first lady" poise. Following in the footsteps of Laura Bush and particularly Hillary Clinton, who was forced to abandon her hopes for reform and swallow humiliation in order to the save her husband’s presidency (she then remade herself by playing her own political game), Michelle was introduced by a video montage [watch below] in which she appeared with soldiers' families, with her daughters, in the garden, and with kids doing gymnastics or playing with a hula-hoop. It provided an image of her as never too aggressive or assertive, but rather fun and naïve, even to the point of appearing restrained. In the end she even defined herself as “mom-in-chief,” which is like saying she is the "First Mom" of America - she, the woman who used to identify herself as a lawyer, who taught Barack Obama what social engagement, community, and civil rights mean. And in order to underline that family is at the heart of everything - to avoid leaving any copyright space for the woman who would like to take her place, that Ann Romney, who is considered the model "angel of the hearth" - she said that her daughters are "the heart of her heart and the center of her world." 



It’s incredible to think that when I first met her in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in January 2008, she impressed me with her ambitious, radical, almost uncompromising strength of character. Even her handshake, very unlike her husband’s, was vigorous. And then she had a way of staring you in the eyes, never granting a concession to the interlocutor. A meeting with a group of teachers and pensioners was held in a garage, around a table with about 50 seats. She spoke off the cuff for exactly 60 minutes and there was complete silence as she spoke of how the country was “broken”: “Life is becoming more difficult for people, but we can’t even manage to grasp that, stuck as we are living with our heads underwater.” She denounced America as a country “that can’t manage to pay tuition fees, that when it gets sick it goes bankrupt, that never eats vegetables and healthy foods. Every year it gets more difficult for normal people to manage to live a decent life, and yet we are a rich country, but the boom only affected a few.”     

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At the end she stopped and spoke to me about how concerned she felt about moving to the White House, afraid that her daughters would have to sacrifice a lot by being forced into an unconventional, overprotected lifestyle. Still today she admits to having been worried, but now she believes that it’s worth staying there, because it is the place where one can make a difference: “Because success cannot be measured by the amount of money you’ve earned, but by the difference that you’ve managed to make in people’s lives.”



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One might say, rudely, that Michelle has become part of the bourgeoisie, considering that living in the White House is not something one easily turns down, and that her former life in their Chicago home is a thing of the past. She has certainly become more diplomatic, understands what Americans want to hear, doesn’t want to ruin her husband’s chances of reelection, and her demeanor is more polished. But there is something else: she knows that her goals will disappear from the agenda if the Republicans win, and there’s no alternative. Thus, although very politely, she pointed out and reminded voters what they have been working for over the past four years: the right women to the same pay as men, the first law that Obama passed, the right to affordable health care, the right to earn a degree without drowning in debt, the right of each person to freely make decisions about his or her own body and health (implying the right to abortion), the right of immigrants to follow the American dream, and the right to love whoever you want (thereby expressing support for gay marriage). 


She never once mention the opponents, and indeed she appeared almost unwilling to do so. But in the list of values and principles she and her husband inherited from their families growing up, she underscored an almost anthropological difference: dignity, humility, gratitude and integrity. And as if echoing the debate surrounding Romney’s tax evasion and the money he has stashed away in tax havens, she said that being honest also means, “that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules.”


Four years ago, when she left that garage unescorted and with a group of volunteers, she climbed into an old gray van with a side door that didn’t close properly. But at the convention, she left the stage to a standing ovation, with her head bowed, without overdoing it - aware, perhaps, that the true revolution can be found in her, a girl from the Black ghetto standing at the heart of White power, and that the game is not yet over. 



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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Sept. 21, 2:30am]






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