v'ܩ The Role of the First Lady: Who cares what Michelle thinks!
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The Role of the First Lady: Who cares what Michelle thinks!

February 10th, 2010

I’ve always found the First Lady to be interesting. Not this particular First Lady but the idea of the First Lady. I think about this as I read an article explaining Michelle Obama’s ‘call for united effort to fight child hood obesity’ and a separate article where she calls for Health Care reform. I just can’t, for the life of me figure out why the media reports on the First Lady or why she gets to spend government funds on a staff to help her work on her ‘Pet project’. No one voted for Michelle Obama. No one asked her to spend our tax dollars on her childhood obesity program. No one voted to give money to the First Lady to pay her public relations people or her chief of staff. Sadly, however, here we are; Listening to someone we didn’t vote for engaging in a job she isn’t qualified for.

First Lady’s Official Role

Originally, the role of the First Lady was to act as the hostess for the White House. This wasn’t an official office and there was no title for the First Lady. The name ‘First Lady’ wasn’t coined until after the death of Dolley Madison and then it still took a number of years to really catch on. For the most part, the early First Ladies, Dolley Madison in particular, defined the role of the First Lady through their actions. The First Lady acted a the hostess of the White House and was a bit of a trend setting celebrity.

Eleanor in the White House

This remained the case for the next approx. 130 years following Dolley Madison’s death. In 1933 FDR and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt entered the White House and everything changed. During Eleanor’s time as the First Lady she bucked many of the existing trends in and expectations of behavior of a First Lady. and his administration. She was an outspoken proponent of the African American Civil Rights Movement. She even played a vital role in the appointment of Mary McLeod Bethune to be head of the Division of Negro Affairs.

In many ways she represents all of the good things about the feminist movement. She represents strong women with their own ideas, women who have their own careers. I’m certainly happy to have had her support for the Civil Rights Movement, but I worry about the precedent she set.

The First Lady in the Post-Eleanor Era

I believe that Eleanor Roosevelt really set the stage for the First Lady-ship the way we know it now. We can look at the First Ladies since then and see all of their pet projects. You can see the speeches they gave, the tax dollars they influenced, the policies they pushed through and supported of their own accord.

Nancy Regan founded a Just Say No anti-drug campaign, a program that proved to be extremely costly and definitely exceeds what I think the job of the Federal Government is. Hilary Clinton championed sweeping health care reform. Thankfully, this program never got off the ground so the only money this cost the U.S. tax payers were the salaries used to pay the staff of people that assisted Hilary. Now, we have Michelle Obama’s new campaign against childhood obesity.

I’m a big guy, I’m definitely against childhood obesity - but is it the government’s job to spend my tax dollars persuading kids to go outside and play? More importantly should a pseudo government official that isn’t elected into their post and has no official power be able to divert money into programs like this? Should the First Lady have the power to cajole Congressmen into voting for her pet project? I’m tired of seeing First Ladies on T.V. telling me about their grand new idea. Id rather we let the President do his job and have the First Lady, or First Gentleman whenever that becomes the case, stop influencing public policy.

Author: T.J. Seabrooks Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. February 10th, 2010 at 11:54 | #1

    I feel you contradict yourself entirely in this article. You talk about Eleanor and then say, “I’m certainly happy to have had her support for the Civil Rights Movement, but I worry about the precedent she set.” But then when it comes to Michelle Obama, you suddenly are against the First Lady doing anything. Personally, I feel this completely destroys your argument, but instead, turns into a case of “picking and choosing” which is okay.

    The first lady gets a staff, but even as hostess of the White House, she’d need a staff. Has it grown larger than that? Probably. But even then, she would get a staff whether she was doing pet projects or not. As for tax payer dollars going to pay for them. She has her projects, but she can’t get anything done. Guess who has to honestly push for it? Her husband Barack.

    Even then, why shouldn’t she be allowed to have her projects? She is an American citizen like anyone else. If she is lobbying congressmen to get money allocated to certain projects, she’s doing what every other American citizen does. Does she lose her right because she is the FLOTUS? She has no power other than the fact she can withhold from her husband.

    So, as much as I agree that the government shouldn’t be trying to do these things, your argument about the first lady is weak.

  2. February 10th, 2010 at 12:17 | #2

    @Jacob
    I think he is happy about Eleanor supporting civil rights because he is African American. He is happy about the outcomes, but still thinks it was wrong for that precedent to be set. It probably could have been worded better, but I don’t think he is actually “picking and choosing.”

  3. February 10th, 2010 at 12:54 | #3

    @Derek Clark
    So he is happy that Eleanor got involved because he benefited from it directly? That is picking and choosing. I’m cool with thinking the first lady shouldn’t be doing anything but being host to the house, but I can’t agree with someone saying that it’s okay for one first lady to do it because it benefits him and then another first lady not to do it because he doesn’t agree with it.

    I see his point that Eleanor set a precedent, but if that is a negative, don’t write an entire section on her talking about how she did great things. I just can’t agree with that.

  4. February 10th, 2010 at 13:20 | #4

    @Jacob
    No, he is happy about the result. Not happy with her doing it or the precedent set. The section is just showing what she did and how the precedent was set.

  5. February 11th, 2010 at 08:39 | #5

    @Jacob
    Apparently, I didn’t explain myself well. Unlike many of her colleagues, other First Ladies, Eleanor targeted a project I respect and think is a worth while project. However, I think it would have been better if she hadn’t. Spending government funds on the First Lady’s project of the moment is always a bad idea.

    I didn’t say it was ok that she did it. I thought it was quite clear, I don’t like the precedent it set. However, it is also important to note that a very large portion of Eleanor’s expenses came out of her own pocket, she had a career as a well known traveling speaker prior to becoming the First Lady.

    Let’s not forget the problem isn’t that the First Lady *has* a project. Everyone should have a project, a goal. The problem, rather, is that she is able to wield government resources and an unreasonable amount of influence over congressional members by virtue of being married to the president.

  6. February 11th, 2010 at 08:41 | #6

    Also, I tried to make it clear I’m against all of the projects of First Ladies, both Republican and Democrat. Frankly, Nancy Regan’s project was probably one of the most costly pointless programs to ever come from a First Lady.

  7. February 11th, 2010 at 12:01 | #7

    That’s the message I didn’t get in your original posting, T.J. I got the, and please don’t take offense, “I am African American, so what Eleanor did was right and dandy because it benefited me, but what Obama and Reagan are doing isn’t because I didn’t benefit.” That’s the image I got from that, so I appreciate the clarification.

    I agree that the precedent that was set is a bit annoying and frustrating. However, I don’t think we should ban her from having projects because she gets to sleep next to the President at night. She’s an American citizen first and foremost. Because she’s close to the President doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be an activist. Should she come under the same scrutiny as other people? Sure, she should.

  8. February 11th, 2010 at 12:27 | #8

    Activist is fine, using my tax dollars for her activism is the problem. They get to spend far too much money for having no legal role whatsoever.

  9. February 11th, 2010 at 13:27 | #9

    They’ve got to get it, though, the exact same way that anyone else does. Even if the President goes, “Sure, honey, you can spend the money,” Congress still has to approve it. So, even though she’s doing stuff we probably don’t want her to do, she still has to go through the same process. Is it easier for her? Sure. But, it’s still a process.

  10. February 11th, 2010 at 16:56 | #10

    It’s a process… but I can’t imagine many of the folks in congress standing in her way given the amount of influence she can have over the president.

  11. Anthony
    April 15th, 2010 at 08:32 | #11

    I could give 2 shits what the first lady has to say. NO ONE voted her in, She is the wife of the president, THAT’S ALL. She already has the ear of the president, many people would kill for just that chance. Isn’t that enough?

  12. Doc
    April 20th, 2010 at 20:51 | #12

    You are kidding yourself Anthony if you think nobody voted for Michelle. They may have cast the actual vote for Barack, but Michelle was their deciding factor. Regardless of that fact, the precedent was set long ago for the wives of presidents to have projects, so let us not hang all the guilt on Michelle. Look to the past if you want to lay blame….

    Doc

  13. robert laflair
    June 14th, 2010 at 16:36 | #13

    My problem with all of this is that no first lady has any political say in any senate or congress. The people should have a bigger say than she does and yet it has become the other way around. Precedents like this happen every day behind closed doors unfortunately. This is just one that made it to the public eye. What bothers me more is how they will make a bigger fuss over what she wears each day vs what opinions she has on a topic. If they are going to bother to report about someone 99% of people don’t even like or give a crap about, they should at least show her reasonable opinions and how she contributes… not wastes time and money on clothes. Perpetuating that, is like perpetuating the plague that has destroyed America from the inside…. obesity is a by product of inevitability when your media spends more time on celebs than the people passing laws that are actually slavery laws…

    many americans are too brainwashed by corporate media to understand the realities they live in. The few that speak out are put down and slandered by the big newspapers, tv stations, radio, magazines…

    And now I am sure many americans will take an offense to what I just said and ignore the truth like you have been trained and brainwashed to do. We are not calling you sleeping zombies to upset you… we call you that because that’s what you have become.

    Just as Canadians are apathetic run away civilians from countries around the world. Many of them straight up losers the government invites in to get their votes and tax money and then fuck them over for twice what they put in to the system. Sounds like a young America doesn’t it?