6a00e55290c504883301156f5f2014970c-100wiFROM sefermpost.com

Monday, April 27, 2009
Michelle Obama: 100 Days Of Transformation
The 21 women nervously mingling at the White House were among the best in their fields. They had achieved Olympic gold, Grammy awards and four stars in the Army. One had orbited the earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour. Some had reached the highest outposts of corporate America, or had earned kudos on stage or on the big screen. They were together for one reason: Michelle Obama.

As a candidate’s wife, as it became increasingly clear Barack Obama might win the presidency, she had dreamed about a day like this, when she could bring together such a talented group and send them off to give pep talks to kids in the public schools.

As first lady, she realized she could make it happen.

“I couldn’t have imagined this a year ago,” Mrs. Obama said. She was speaking one morning last month to the other high achievers she had invited to the blue-and-yellow Diplomatic Reception Room in the basement of the White House.

Once in the White House, Mrs. Obama quickly was out the door and running on a bunch of issues, all of them very traditional, first ladylike and unlikely to upset the public.

She dashed around from one government agency to another, thanking often-criticized civil service employees for their work and plugging the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.

She got beyond official Washington, too — touring a neighborhood social services center, reading to little kids, serving mushroom risotto at a soup kitchen. She gave pep talks to high school students and dirtied her hands in the garden.

In Europe, she caused a media frenzy, not as much for where she went or with whom she met or for what she said, but for the outfits she wore to meet the British prime minister, the queen of England and the French president and his wife, a former fashion model.

Some of the clothes she wears sell out immediately after aides say where she got them. Numerous Web sites dissect and analyze her style; at least one is posting photos of every outfit she wears in public.

In London, she alone drew a rare, and much talked about, public display of affection from Queen Elizabeth II.

At a reception for world leaders attending the G-20 economic summit, Her Majesty draped an arm across the first lady’s back. Mrs. Obama returned the gesture, sparking endless discussion about whether it was wrong of her to touch the queen.

But the embrace also was a symbol of just how far Michelle Obama’s transformation had taken her. By getting a touch from the queen, she pulled off something few others have.

Mrs. Obama organized her own kind of G-20 summit at the White House last month, with an all-female cast ranging from singer Alicia Keys to actress Fran Drescher to astronaut Mae Jemison.

The assignment was to go out and inspire young people. Girls, especially.

Getting them to see their potential wasn’t something Mrs. Obama talked about on the campaign trail. The pep talks came after she realized the role model and source of inspiration she had become for so many.

“Nothing in my life’s path would have predicted that I’d be standing here as the first African-American first lady of the United States of America,” she told an audience of schoolgirls in London. “If you want to know the reason why I’m standing here, it’s because of education.”

It’s a simple pitch, and it’s the same whether she is talking to students in D.C. or England.

She was in their shoes once, but she liked going to school, she liked being smart, she liked getting A’s. She worked hard to get ahead and to prove the people who doubted her wrong. She tells students they can do the same.

Laura Bush says she wished she’d realized earlier the power she had as first lady.

Michelle Obama’s journey has already gotten her to that point, and she sees what she can accomplish.

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