It’s not that First Lady Michelle Obama is above criticism. I’ve expressed my critical thoughts about remarks made by Mrs. Obama when they veered toward the political, like last year when she declared that church is “absolutely” a place to discuss political issues. Even so, more times than not, Michelle Obama’s role is largely apolitical — a fun fact many conveniently glance over whenever they decide to opine over her every waking move and campaign.
That’s why when I read a recent piece from Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, lamenting that “it’s time for First Lady Michelle Obama to raise her game,” I wondered aloud, Just what does he think this is?
According to Milloy:
Nothing wrong with telling kids to eat their peas or showing them how to Hula-Hoop. But after four years of focusing on the body, she’d do well to spend these next four on building strong minds.
So you want her to take U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s job?
Milloy went on to pontificate:
Enough with the broccoli and Brussels sprouts — to say nothing about all the attention paid to her arms, hair, derriere, and designer clothes. Where is that intellectually gifted Princeton graduate, the Harvard-educated lawyer and mentor to the man who would become the first African-American president of the United States?
No one criticized Laura Bush for reading to children, so why hammer at Michelle for an anti-obesity program that’s actually showing signs of working?
In any event, Milloy certainly has an idea of how to judge the way she’s been spending her time:
Surely that was not the First Lady bumping hips and doing hand-jive dancing with Jimmy Fallon in drag on his late-night TV talk show.
This takes me back to college, when Milloy wrote a controversial column depicting Howard University students as politically apathetic fried-chicken lusting fools who were only given a rise when then-President George W. Bush visited the campus and interrupted “Soul Food Thursday.”
I see he’s still peddling that same kind of self-loathing jabber disguised as a rallying cry of concern.
I’ll continue to hold out hope that he one day finds a cure for those condescending symptoms, but in the meantime, I’d like to address his sophomoric dismissal of what Michelle Obama has managed to accomplish to the best of her abilities for a job with a very limited job description.
For the sense-of-humor-deficient sect of the community, Michelle Obama wasn’t just on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” doing a funny jig, she was discussing the success of her “Let’s Move” campaign.
While it’s cute to imagine the role of First Lady to be more than what it actually is, need I remind Michelle’s critics that up until Hillary Clinton, the first lady position was lighthearted and largely out of the way of government policy — and if memory serves me right, that didn’t go so well for Hillary.
In essence, Michelle Obama can’t do much in the way of “building strong minds” as Milloy instructs her to, but at the very least, she can change – as she notes in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed – the way our children think via touting the kind of diet that will actually make them think better in school.
Considering her background as a health care administrator, this is an issue that she has some level of knowledge about.
Likewise, maybe, just maybe, Michelle also used that knowledge about health and the health industry to influence the health care industry and Obamacare.
Still, I suppose it’s more fun to forget all of that in favor of making declarations like:
She ought to be under consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court, not recruited as a presenter in some Hollywood movie contest.
Why exactly would she be under consideration for that? Never mind, if he thinks the First Lady’s position yields the power he’s suggesting it does, I’m surprised he’s yet to suggest she throw in her name to be named the next Pope or make a run for the Janet Jackson void Ciara has long struggled to fill.
Michelle Obama has long professed a disdain for politics but has worked ardently to make her mark in a traditionally novelty-like position.
She deserves respect for her work.
So before you start pushing the First Lady to “drop the peas and carrots, and start building strong minds,” Mr. Milloy, maybe you just wrap your mind around the way Michelle’s gig actually works.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick