Well, it’s officially the last week of both the Obamas and the Bidens, and I must say they will definitely be missed. Not only is Barack Obama the first African-American to hold the President of the United States title, his wife is the first African-American to hold the First Lady of the United States title. We know all that Barack has done – and it’s been nothing short of fantastic, but how about the First Lady?
Well, as it turns out, she’s equally as fantastic.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson (or girl of the southside, if you’re Barack Obama) is the wife, and best friend of POTUS. But she is also much more than that: She’s a dedicated, motivated, hard worker. She constantly takes on challenges and the walls that go with those challenges, and blows them apart with sticks of First Lady approved dynamite – leaving accomplishments atop the rubble. You’re probably wondering “what the heck is this dude talking about”.
I’m talking about these accomplishments:
1. Brought needed attention to the childhood obesity epidemic: The FLOTUS started the Let’s Move! initiative in 2010 and served as the honorary chair for the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). These initiatives have brought together major players from the private and public sectors, academia, medicine, and other areas to work together to address childhood obesity. As they say, the first (and often biggest) step in dealing with a problem is recognizing it, and the FLOTUS helped America take that step.
2. Increased access to healthier foods: Eating healthier and trying to maintain a healthy weight is a lot easier if you live in the produce aisle of a supermarket and can afford to buy what’s around you. When you can’t afford to buy healthier foods, you will buy unhealthy foods. Therefore, the FLOTUS, PHA, and Let’s Move! worked with companies to improve access to healthier foods such as with Wal-Mart to lower the price of fruits and vegetables and improve the nutritional content of their food, Darden (which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster) to make kids’ menus healthier, and Walmart and Walgreen’s to expand into food desserts (neighborhoods that lack healthy food sources). PHA along with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation got 16 of the largest food manufacturers to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their food products by 2015, a goal that they achieved 3 years ahead of schedule.
3. Improved food labeling: The FLOTUS helped usher in the first major changes in the Nutrition Facts in over 20 years such as finally including “added sugars” on the label and worked with the American Beverage Association to make calorie labels clearer on drinks.
4. Redesigned school lunch programs: The FLOTUS championed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, as the USDA indicates the first major changes in school meals in 15 years, to prompt schools to serve healthier foods and reduce the costs of lunches for low-income children, and Chefs Move to School to have chefs teach healthier cooking and eating to cafeteria staff and kids.
5. Promoted physical activity: As part of the Let’s Move! Initiative, the US Tennis Association built or refurbish 10,000 youth-sized tennis courts, held programs to encourage kids to play tennis, and train many more coaches to help kids learn tennis. Here’s the FLOTUS at the 2016 Project Play Summit organized by the Aspen Institute:
6. Helped Veterans: Many Veterans face tough battles when they return from service such as dealing with health problems, unemployment, and homelessness. Along with Dr. Jill Biden, the FLOTUS launched Joining Forces to provide support and resources for veterans and their families.
7. Demonstrated how to handle unwarranted criticism: Have any other President and First Lady combination faced more irrelevant criticism and attacks than the Obamas? How many past Presidents have had their birthplaces questioned? How many Presidents and First Ladies have faced so many comments about their appearance such as the “ape in heels” comment from Beverly Whaling, a mayor in West Virginia? The racist reactions to the Obamas were just sad and wasted so much time, effort, and energy. But both Obamas handled such challenges with poise, remaining calm while not backing down.
8. Advocated for girl’s and women’s health, education, and rights: The FLOTUS launched the Let Girls Learn initiative with her husband – along with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), as well the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The initiative aims to reduce the barriers girls around the world face to getting quality education.
9. Advanced equal rights and equal opportunities: Just by being in office, the Obamas helped get people more used to seeing people who look “different” in leadership positions. Everyone has stereotypes of what leaders should look like, and unfortunately the past, television, movies, advertising, and other media and entertainment have conditioned those stereotypes. Such stereotypes then hamper those who do not fall within those stereotypes (e.g., if you are a woman or Black or Asian or disabled or gay or a nerd, etc.) As this last Presidential election demonstrated, America is very, very far from being post-racial and post-gender. But hopefully, the Obamas’ presence and their appointing more diverse staffs will help more people realize that leadership is about what’s inside and not outside.
10. Lack of major scandal: As veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post, and others have indicated, the Obamas term was the first since the 1970’s that didn’t have a major scandal.
Accomplishments, indeed. Michelle Obama, Out. *drops mic*