Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Tuesday 12th December 2017 | Manchester, UK

Michelle: An Icon 

Michelle Obama is recognised globally for her position as First Lady of the United States, a position she held from 2009 to 2017. Being the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama is an icon of the progressive and more liberal America which was practiced under the Obama administration.  

 

Obama was named Most Fascinating Person of the year in 2009 as she took the country by surprise through her controversially modern approach to the historic role. She did not just receive respect because of her marriage to Barack Obama – but also for the way in which she used the platform of First Lady to support change for others.    

 

Michelle Obama has been heavily praised for her support of LGBT rights. She publicly announced her support for same-sex marriage in May 2012, stating that for her it was a matter of fairness and equality which is granted to everyone under American law, no matter “who we love.” To this day Obama continues to use her influence to promote LGBT rights in the media, recently speaking out against the anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bills passing through the state legislatures in Mississippi. 

 

One specific achievement of Obama’s time in the White House was the initiative ‘Let’s Move!’ which aimed to tackle the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America. ‘Let’s Move!’ seeks to reduce childhood obesity to 5% by 2030 through the encouragement of healthier food options in schools, clearer food labelling, and more opportunity for physical activity for children. 597 museums and gardens in all 50 states have signed up to offer active exhibits and healthy food choices as part of ‘Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens’. This is an important step in educating the public about the dangers of obesity and it provides accessible spaces for families to be active together. 

 

Not only has Obama supported and raised awareness for LGBT rights and the health of children, she has also helped advance the campaign for women’s rights around the world. Obama launched the ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative in March 2015, which aimed to help grant education to the 62 million girls around the world who don’t have access to schooling. When Obama made a trip to North Africa in the Summer of 2016, she announced that $5 million from the Obama administration would be spent addressing gender-based violence and poor sanitation in villages, with the aim of encouraging young girls into education.  

 

It is clear why Michelle Obama has proved to be an extremely popular First Lady. She was willing to take a stand on contentious issues, and fight to introduce essential change at both a national and international level. 

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