In 2008, I sat in my 2nd grade classroom surrounded by talk of an election that I couldn’t yet grasp the impact of. As my peers bickered naively about the candidates, I remained transfixed by the woman standing next to Barack Obama. Her movements were graceful, but not practiced. She was composed and polite, her demeanor warm and friendly. Her beautiful strength and natural elegance was a stark contrast to the other women I had become too used to seeing as ornaments on the arms of politicians.
It was not until years after I first saw the First Lady that I realized my draw to her stemmed from my admiration of her character.
Throughout her term as the first lady, Obama’s unwavering confidence and grace under constant watch and often criticism from the American public has been an inspiration in my life. I can’t say my investment in American politics is that much deeper than it was when I was 8. My expatriate upbringing has created a disconnect between my hometown and my understanding of its government. But even so, the strength and moral fortitude Michelle Obama has demonstrated over the course of the last eight years will continue to inspire me even after her husband is no longer president.
As someone who has always had trouble taking the high road, her ability to create light in a dark situation astounds me. At the recent Democratic Convention, Obama said her now famous line, “When they go low, we go high.” This needs to be remembered now, when it seems that the people who will soon be in charge would rather trade insults than do their jobs.
Every time my fear surrounding the current president-elect becomes a little too much, some of it can be put at rest by knowing that Americans (whether they be women, LGBTQ, or people of racial minorities) have role models like Obama to turn to.
In staying true to her ideals and publicly opposing the opinions and actions of Donald Trump, she has solidified in my mind that I, as both a woman and a human being, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
In addition to the impact she has made by plainly leading by example, the causes she has chosen to support as well as her efforts have been both worthwhile and successful.
She has spent her two terms as First Lady making differences in the lives of young Americans. In response to the increased frequency of childhood obesity, she fought to provide students with healthy meals and keep them active. When she became frustrated with the gender inequalities in education, she started an organisation to fund girl’s school education.
In everything she represents, Obama is the embodiment of who I want to grow up to be. Her hard work and success in dealing with commonplace issues as well as her everyday attitude towards life has showed me that I am allowed to be more than I ever thought I was capable of. I am allowed to be powerful and have opinions, while also being a mother. I am allowed to be ambitious, but also kind. But the most important thing Obama has demonstrated is that I am allowed to fight for what I believe in, and I never need to apologize for it.
The New York Times Style Magazine published an article with the same name on October 17, 2016 which included thank you letters to Michelle Obama.