19 Oct Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem & More Pen Down Heartfelt Messages To Michelle Obama In T Magazine
Its almost time for the world to say goodbye to one of the greatest First Ladies In History . In two tenures, Michelle Obama won over hearts all over the world, a pace setter, Mrs Obama dismissed many stereotypes, her involvement in pop culture only endeared her even more to us, her press-forward for feminism as a movement to offer equality made her stand out, her insistent cause for education for girls, inspiring, her effortless sexiness, yes I said it, I dare to dub her Beauty, Curves & Brains, however unconventional that maybe. I could right a book on the great Michelle but all in all, she set the bar really high for women and men alike all around the globe . I am not the only one who feels this way; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ( novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer), Gloria Steinem ( American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist ), Jon Meacham (Executive editor and executive vice president at Random House, contributing editor to Time magazine), Rashida Jones (American actress, comic book author, film producer, singer, and screenwriter) are in accord . Read excerpts from their heartfelt messages penned down to the First Lady, Michelle Obama as she stuns as one of the 23 greats in T Magazine .
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Michelle Obama was speaking. I felt protective of her because she was speaking to an America often too quick to read a black woman’s confidence as arrogance, her straightforwardness as entitlement.
She was informal, colloquial, her sentences bookended by the word “see,” a conversational fillip that also strangely felt like a mark of authenticity. She seemed genuine. She was genuine. All over America, black women were still, their eyes watching a form of God, because she represented their image writ large in the world.
Her speech was vibrant, a success. But there was, in her eyes and beneath her delivery and in her few small stumbles, a glimpse of something somber. A tight, dark ball of apprehension. As though she feared eight years of holding her breath, of living her life with a stone in her gut.
Eight years later, her blue dress was simpler but not as eager to be appropriate; its sheen, and her edgy hoop earrings, made clear that she was no longer auditioning.
Her daughters were grown. She had shielded them and celebrated them, and they appeared in public always picture perfect, as though their careful grooming was a kind of reproach. She had called herself mom-in-chief, and cloaked in that nonthreatening title, had done what she cared about.
She had become an American style icon. Her dresses and workouts. Her carriage and curves. Toned arms and long slender fingers. Even her favored kitten heels, for women who cannot fathom wearing shoes in the halfway house between flats and high heels, have earned a certain respect because of her. No public figure better embodies that mantra of full female selfhood: Wear what you like.
She was relaxed, emotional, sentimental. Her uncertainties laid to rest. Her rhythm was subtler, because she no longer needed it as her armor, because she had conquered.
The insults, those barefaced and those adorned as jokes, the acidic scrutiny, the manufactured scandals, the base questioning of legitimacy, the tone of disrespect, so ubiquitous, so casual. She had faced them and sometimes she hurt and sometimes she blinked but throughout she remained herself.
Michelle Obama was speaking. I realized then that she hadn’t been waiting to exhale these past eight years. She had been letting that breath out, in small movements, careful because she had to be, but exhaling still.
What will she choose to do next? That’s up to her. She could do anything, from becoming a U.S. senator from Illinois to campaigning for the safety and education of girls globally. She could also choose to lead a private life. Whatever she decides, I trust her judgment.
Though I’m old enough to remember Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House — and all the couples and families since — I have never seen such balance and equal parenting, such love, respect, mutuality and pleasure in each other’s company. We will never have a democracy until we have democratic families and a society without the invented categories of both race and gender. Michelle Obama may have changed history in the most powerful way — by example.
Not everyone agrees, of course; not everyone ever does. The Obama skeptics and the Obama haters have from time to time questioned her patriotism, but this is the same country that managed, in some quarters, to hold Eleanor Roosevelt in contempt. The important thing is that Mrs. Obama, a clear-eyed lawyer, found a way to withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. In point of fact, she did more than withstand it. To borrow a phrase from William Faulkner, she not only endured it; she prevailed over it.
How? By finding, or appearing to find, that most elusive of things in the modern world: balance. She was not Mrs. Roosevelt or Mrs. Carter or Mrs. Reagan or Mrs. Clinton, playing roles in affairs of state. Instead she did what the first African-American first lady arguably had to do to play a successful public role. In Voltaire’s terms, she cultivated her own garden, never threatening and never intimidating her neighbors. Much more doubtless unfolded beneath the surface or behind closed doors; history will sort that out. For now, it is enough to say that she is leaving the White House a strong and popular figure with a lifetime of good will and great reservoirs of capital on which to draw as she and her husband write their next chapters.
Michelle Obama embodies the modern, American woman, and I don’t mean that in any platitudinous or vague way. Rarely can someone express their many identities at the same time while seeming authentic. My female friends and I often talk about feeling like we’re “too much.” We’re complicated; we want to be so many things. I want to be a boss and also be vulnerable. I want to be outspoken and respected, but also sexy and beautiful.
If feminism’s goal is equal opportunity and choice, Michelle makes me feel like every choice is available. You can go to Princeton and Harvard, you can rap with Missy Elliott, you can be a mother and a lawyer and a powerful orator. You can champion the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, while also caring about fashion. You can dance with Ellen and also fearlessly remind people, on live television, of the reality of your position: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” You can be your husband’s partner and supporter, and also use your cultural and political capital to campaign for Hillary Clinton, unflinchingly standing up to her “locker room talk”-ing bully of an opponent with the battle cry “enough is enough!” — eloquently putting into words what a lot of people, myself included, had been feeling.
Michelle Obama will have her own legacy, separate from her husband’s. And it will be that she was the first first lady to show women that they don’t have to choose. That it’s okay to be everything.
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All Images Courtesy Of NY TIMES