Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Classy ladies

Michelle Obama's speech last night was a class act--there's simply no other way to describe it. I heard a commentator on TV this morning say one thing that was striking was the contrast with Michelle four years ago when entering the presidential race, let alone the White House, was a new and scary experience for her, when she worried abut the effect on her daughters and, probably, on her relationship with her husband. She was a professional woman, experienced, but not used to being thrust into the national spotlight, and there she was. Last night she demonstrated that she was used to that spotlight,  used to the White House, and comfortable with all of it. Her passion and sincerity were evident not only in her words but in the way in which she carried herself. I thought she had an inner glow that made her truly charming and beautiful.
It reminded me of Laura Bush, whose ascent to the pubic spotlight I watched more than eight years ago. As the governor's wife, she kept a low profile at first; when she made an appearance once at a dinner I attended she seemed just a bit shy. I met her once, for a handshake, in the foyer of the Governor's Mansion and thought her crisply efficient. Her husband, on the other hand, seemed like a bashful teddy bear who had just pulled that wrinkled shirt out of the dryer.
But because I attended the Texas Book Fair, I got to watch her a bit more than usual. By the time she left the Governor's Mansion, she had gained a great deal of self-confidence and poise, and as the First Lady she continued to grow.  I greatly admired the way she handled herself on television  and in public appearances, although her style is far different, more formal and reserved, than Michelle Obama's.
They say what doesn't kill you helps you grow--and maybe that's true of the public spotlight. Presidential wives have not always fared well--Mrs. Lincoln comes to mind. But then, there's Eleanor Roosevelt, perhaps so independent that she alienated her husband but a woman of great compassion, intellect and good deeds. Want to know more? Read Presidential Wives by Paul Boller, an informative, informal and entertaining book.
This isn't a political statement but one on women. I'm ready and willing to admire women who achieve and grow, no matter their political affiliation, but I don't see in Ann Romney the comfort in the spotlight, even the comfort in her own skin, that Michelle Obama has achieved. Mrs. Romney looks pinched, even angry. The most telling Facebook post I saw was that Ann Romney talked to us; Michelle Obama talked for us.
Then again, there was some discussion on TV this morning (the TODAY show) about the relevance of a politician's wife. Does her character (or charisma or lack thereof) have anything to do with governing the nation? Yes, I think it does. As one person said on the show, who you choose to live with says something about you.
Hats off to Michelle and Laura--ladies with class, ladies who took experience and grew with it.

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