Even before Michelle Obama could finish speaking last night at the opening night of DNC my inbox and cell phone were popping with inquiries from readers and friends (and a few foes) wanting to know what I thought about her speech and what I thought about Michelle after hearing her speak on a national stage.
Last night’s speech by Michelle Obama didn’t change my mind one iota about her. Michelle Obama is a fantastic woman and a role model for women everywhere. She’s warm, caring, confident, intelligent, well-educated, and very comfortable standing before thousands to speak. Did I mention that Michelle Obama is smart? In fact, Michelle Obama did exactly what a woman with her background and credentials was supposed to do and what women like her do all the time when they stand up to speak. She spoke like a woman in charge. What’s so strange about that? It’s what we do.
Michelle Obama’s carefully calibrated speech last night at the DNC did exactly what it was supposed to do. Dispel any suspicions (white) Americans might have about her being an angry black woman. Reassure the jittery masses (meaning white Americans) that there’s no difference between Michelle and Barack Obama and the families they come from and the typical (white) American family. From the story of her stay-at-home mom to that of her blue collar father who worked hard, suffered silently, and and died much too soon from complications from mulitiple sclerosis. From the choice of her make-up to the color and cut of her dress, to the softer facial expressions and movement of her hands. Michelle Obama, I am sure, was in full charge of her own recasting and repackaging. She even spoke of her love for the United States and how she’s tried to give back “in my own small way to this country that has given me so much.” Remarks obviously meant to quell widespread criticisms that she was not patriotic enough. The point of last night’s speech was to prove that Michelle Obama (and by inference, the Obama family) shares the same values and struggles that all Americans have.
The most adorable, meta-laden, tone-setting line for Michelle Obama’s speech, in my opinion, was not spoken by Michelle Obama, but by her brother, basketball coach Craig Robingson, who introduced his sister by confiding that even though, as children they were only allowed to watch one hour of television Michelle was the one who managed to commit to memory every episode of “The Brady Bunch.” Not “Green Acres.” Not “The Adams Family. Not “Good Times.” Not “The Jeffersons.” And definitely, not “All in the Family.” (As a sidenote, I must admit that for someone like me who lost her older brother to lung cancer a few years ago the most touching moment of the evening was the warm embrace Michelle and her brother exchanged as he was exiting the podium and when she was coming out onto the platform to speak.)
Couldn’t you just hear the collective sigh of Americans as they sat in their living rooms watching this family drama unfold?
In case you hadn’t noticed, wives of politicans are supposed to show a different side of their husbands. In the tough and tumble world of politics where candidates hammer each other, cut deals behind doors, and lie without blinking, voters (according to conventional wisdom) want to be assured that the candidate actually has a softer, regular-guy side. One that only his wife and children can prove that’s there. That’s what wives of political candidates are supposed to do when they speak on their husband’s behalf. That’s what family portraits are supposed to convey. That’s what last night’s speech was supposed to achieve. At the end of the speech, there was a staged moment where Barack Obama was piped in via satellite and talked to Michelle and the girls. An ordinary family. (You did know that that was staged, didn’t you?)
Once again, a collective sigh was supposed to go up as (white) Americans sat in their living rooms watching on tv a typical modern American family scene – daddy, mommy, and wee ones– reunite, across satellite, after a day at work with kisses and hugs and much love. Instead of Obama. Think Brady.
Ahhhh. They’re not so different. They’re just like us. Hey, what can I say? I bought the speech. I can imagine the Obamas as next door neighbors. But I doubt mine is the neighborhood the Obamas are trying to move into.
What do you think? Did Michelle Obama’s speech do what it was supposed to do?