Lady Bird Johnson beautified America’s highways, Barbara and Laura Bush promoted education and literacy, Nancy Reagan encouraged kids to , “Just Say No” to drugs, and Jackie Kennedy refurbished and opened up the White House to all Americans. Since our country’s beginnings when Martha Washington set up programs to help veterans of the Revolutionary War, First Ladies of the United States have traditionally used their position to bring attention to causes important to them. Michelle Obama follows the tradition, encouraging Americans, especially children, to eat right and exercise in order to combat obesity. Occasionally, First Ladies have received criticism for perceived interference in their husband’s domain-politics. Hilary Clinton was reviled in the press when she was charged with revamping the health care system, and her husband caused concern when he excitedly told the American people during the 1992 campaign that they were getting “two presidents for the price of one.” Eleanor Roosevelt was also often criticized for her activism. She was instrumental in the creation of many of the New Deal programs and was vocal in civil rights and women’s rights issues. However, Michelle Obama has so far managed to escape criticism for her political activism.
Michelle Obama is using her voice in this election to support her husband and promote his policies and programs. But she is doing something unique for a First Lady. She is using her voice to encourage people to vote. This is the first time a First Lady has used her influence in this way and it could have a major impact on the election in November. There are segments in society who feel marginalized and left out of the process. Many Americans are fed up with politicians’ rhetoric and fighting. Michelle Obama, however, has a much less political reputation and therefore, people are listening. Her “It Takes One” message has already proven to be effective. In her recent talk in North Carolina, she explained that in the 2008 election, President Obama won North Carolina with only 5 votes per precinct. She then wisely ensured the people that clearly, every vote matters: “If there is anyone here or anyone in your lives who might be thinking that their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference — if you know anyone like that, I want you to just think about those five votes. Keep that in your head.” After this talk in North Carolina, 500 new voters registered to vote, proving her success. If Michelle Obama’s rallying calls influences apathetic or non-politically motivated Americans to participate in the process and to vote for her husband, it could make a real difference in November.