An oasis amid the politics

Popular first lady's speech was an exceptional performance

The praise is certainly over the top. One column at CNN.com asks, “Will Michelle Obama’s speech change history?”

The author, former Carter speechwriter Gordon Stewart, wrote, “Michelle Obama gave one of the finest speeches ever delivered at a national political convention.”

That may be a bit much. But there’s little doubt Mrs. Obama was everything she was billed to be and more. She did her husband proud.

Moreover, it must be said that Michelle Obama has made herself into an absolutely exceptional first lady.

It’s a role that the strong, opinionated, career-minded Mrs. Obama took on reluctantly, as the Associated Press’ Julie Pace reminded Tuesday night, calling her “once a reluctant political spouse.”

She may have been back then, but today the woman many think of as “Hugger in Chief” has embraced her power and prestige and everything she can accomplish with it, and she’s done it with aplomb.

It has become fashionable for presidential spouses to champion a certain cause during their husband’s term, and Mrs. Obama has done that with verve. Literally. Her “Let’s Move” initiative to combat obesity, particularly in children, could scarcely come at a more opportune time for a country weighted down by unhealthy lifestyles.

As an added, but hardly tangential, bonus, Mrs. Obama is one of the most inspiring role models that young women of color have ever had the opportunity to look up to. Truth be known, we won’t ever know the full effect of the example she sets. It has to be incalculable.

Her gutsy decision to plow new ground at the White House – with a very high-profile garden in the old staid lawn – will always be remembered by history.

And we share her zeal for urban farming. More about that later.

Some people like to say that all politics are personal. Not so. While this editorial page stands diametrically opposed to the vision of government espoused by the Obamas, it’s never been personal. Nor is it personal where most voters are concerned. Despite low job-approval ratings, Mr. Obama and his wife both enjoy strong personal popularity.

That’s no way to decide elections, of course, as we’ve noted. But neither should political differences be allowed to rise to the level of personal attacks or even dislike. The Obamas appear for all the world to be utterly delightful. Most of us want the same things in this country; there are simply sharp disagreements on how to get there.

It’s always been clear that, regardless of the arc of this great nation and its economy, the Obamas are loved by a wide swath of the electorate.

She recently showed off her fitness in a push-up contest with talk show host Ellen Degeneres. This is no Dolly Madison cupcake.

Just four years ago, there were legitimate questions as to whether this country would even elect an African-American president. Today, while the political differences rage on, there’s no question that the president and his wife and family have been warmly embraced.

That says a lot about both her and the country.

We don’t know if she changed history Tuesday night. But she certainly made it – by setting a new standard for first-lady oratory.

Exceptional indeed.

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