Thus far, The President of the United States is often seen as a “family man,” who relies on the support of his family to not only support his presidential campaign, but to create an image of the ideal American Family. It is interesting to examine how the comments and speeches presented by the First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney specifically incorporate family affairs. Each candidate for the 2012 election uses the angle of his family to his advantage.
President Obama often talks of how being raised by a loving, single mother, taught him to have a strong work ethic and to persevere in the face of adversity. He often links his upbringing to his current role as a father and his connection with his two daughters. In the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the whole nation witnessed a touching ‘skype’-like phone call from President Obama to Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. Then in this year’s National Democratic Convention, the Obama family was highlighted again. Elaine Brye, a mother of four, introduced Michelle Obama for her 2012 speech at the National Democratic Convention, and from the start a family-based motif framed the first lady’s speech. Michelle Obama talked about her and President Obama’s children and emphasized the value of an upbringing in the White House for their daughters. Through many family photos, you can see the Obama family engaging in fun, everyday activities, such as watching sports games in the oval office and walking casually on the bright green lawn of the White House.
Opposing candidate Governor Romney also incorporates family affairs in his political campaign. Governor Romney often speaks about his high school sweetheart, Ann, raising their five sons, and spending vacations with their grandchildren. In Ann Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention, the large screens behind her showed pictures of her, her husband, Governor Romney, and their five sons. She begins her speech at the Republican National Convention indicating that she will discuss the topic of ‘love’ and how it holds all of us together as an “American family” (2:29). She continues to discuss the love she has for her children and how mothers throughout the United States are bonded by this love. News stories about Ann often highlight her as a strong mother who, while battling Multiple Sclerosis and surviving Breast Cancer, has had the time to support her husband and continue to be a strong role model for mothers throughout Massachusetts.
Each candidate wants to appeal to every American family, to portray a sense of resemblance and understanding between the candidate and the many families that comprise the United States. On the Kelly and Michael Show, Ann and Governor Mitt Romney share some personal stories and opinions on issues facing America today. When Governor Mitt Romney is asked what he and President Obama have in common, he said that the two candidates agree upon “the importance of family” (8:08). Each candidate realizes that the incorporation of their family stories in their campaigns adds to their reliability and creates compassionate personas. Furthermore, it is interesting to note the value a candidate’s partner has in an election. Gender roles are significantly portrayed through the First Lady’s platform, which often includes programs for children and public health and how the First Lady emphasizes family values throughout most of her speeches.
The family members of the presidential candidates also draw the attention of the American public and appeal and scrutiny of different voters. Unfortunately, the family members of a presidential candidate are often criticized and viciously attacked during election times. In an interview facilitated by Shawn Hannity with Ann Coulter, she seems to advocate for the republican party supporters to begin to criticize the Obama children in this election (00:23). I believe that the family spectrum should remain separate from a presidential election for this reason. It is not fair for eleven-year-old Sasha Obama to be attacked for her father’s presidency. Nor is it fair for Mitt Romney’s sons and sixteen grandchildren to endure ridicule for their father’s opinions. Though we may not think that family is an important aspect of a political campaign, in the 2012 presidential election, the inclusion of family values has proved to be a significant detail.