by Jennifer Mandelblatt
After the close of the recent election, anchors and voters alike turned their attention not only to the candidates, but also to their wives. Since the role of the First Lady is to be a figurehead for a better America, First Lady Michelle Obama and Ms. Ann Romney both brought awareness and action to their favorite causes.
The First Lady once epitomized the traditional woman: she was to make the proper appearances and preside over state dinners and entertainments, according to firstladies.org. Eleanor Roosevelt, however, pioneered the role of the active First Lady who deals directly in political and social issues. Hillary Clinton resurrected this role through her health care program, known as Hillary Care. Today, Obama’s platform for physical activity and better nutrition for children continues that tradition.
Public focus on this executive role has not diminished, and both Obama and Romney are determined make themselves seen—in bubblegum pink, no less. The modern perspective of the First Lady has thus evolved from who wore the color best (yes, there are a number of websites devoted to this question) to how will the woman of the White House continue the legacies of the great women who came before her.
Though a few spouses have made appearances at party nomination conventions, it was not until Barbara Bush did the wife’s speech, often about women’s issues and family, become an tradition, according to articles.latimes.com.
Obama was allotted time during the Democratic National Convention to make a speech during which she reflected on the glass ceiling her grandmother-in-law faced, despite her hard work and her husband’s passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, according to politico.com. Romney was welcomed by the Republican National Convention and said, “It's the moms of this nation, single, married, widowed, who really hold the country together.”
Though the women are essential for gaining support, and are a part of the political strategy, the work they do is not weighted down by a political agenda, but is instead empowered by a sense of good. Obama has led the fight against childhood obesity through the “Let’s Move” campaign and, along with Dr. Jill Biden, created “Joining Forces,” an initiative to aid service members and their families, according to whitehouse.gov.
Romney, who has multiple sclerosis, has turned her personal battle into public improvement as she serves on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, according to biography.com. Though Gov. Mitt Romney was defeated in the election, Ann Romney’s role in MS awareness remains valuable.
It is these women who remind Americans that underneath the cynical facade of Washington, there is hope and emotion that will persist in the social welfare agenda of the First Lady, despite her husband’s approval rating.