Posted by: amandadegs | January 24, 2018

First Lady, New Path

Taking on the role of First Lady of the United States can be challenging, yet Michelle Obama demonstrated her role with poise and grace. As First Lady, there is an expectation to dress luxuriously and always portray herself as put-together. Compared to the current First Lady Melanie Trump, there is a fashion difference that plays a part in their leadership styles. Melanie Trump tends to wear highly expensive clothing, shoes, and accessories upwards of $50,000. This gives off the assumption that Mrs. Trump is focused on how others’ perceive her. On the contrary, Mrs. Obama gave off the impression that she was focused on her goals, based on her “inexpensive” J. Crew clothing. Michelle Obama clarified that her role as First Lady would be more of a “mom-in-chief” job. Did Obama’s choice of fashion make her a relatable leader?

Being relatable as a leader is important. It enables a trusting relationship for supporters. An aspect of being relatable was seen through her loving interactions with her children and her husband, President Barack Obama. To the public, Mrs. Obama showed herself as personable. She often showed a dancing-side of her personality on television. She portrayed herself as down-to-earth, which could be seen as strange for such an important position in the United States.

Throughout her time as First Lady, she exemplified herself as reliable because she kept her promises. Her campaign called “Let’s Move!” brought attention to the health problem faced by many American families. She made a plan to provide healthier food options in schools, encourage physical activity, and told food companies to market healthy options for children. Her goal was to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within  one generation. Was Michelle Obama’s leadership style of leading from example shown from her genuine passion for health and fitness? Did it inspire many American families to become more physically fit or did it just raise awareness of the issue?

As a female leader herself, she advocated the importance of empowering girls and women across the nation. She wanted a change for the better in female leadership because she has had first-hand experience and wanted to make it easier for generations to come. Obama hosted a dinner at the White House to encourage young girls to break the glass ceiling. Her advice was to keep putting forth hard work and faith. Is this meaningful advice to break the glass ceiling?


  1. I think this is very meaningful advice, especially considering the context behind it. This was Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, telling a group of impressionable young girls that they can achieve their goals despite the misogynistic challenges that they may face. Michelle Obama is a role model for several reasons, particularly her efforts as a supportive wife to the president and on her independent campaigns to raise awareness about health and well-being. However, she was also a role model simply for her character: an ambitious, strong, African-American woman. Although there were societal expectations pitted against her for her race and gender, she defied the odds and became a successful lawyer. After graduating from Princeton and receiving a law degree from Harvard – two of the most prestigious institutions in the world – Obama began her career in political work in Chicago, where she eventually met and married Barack. When he began president, Michelle used her position of power to spread positive messages for young girls and fought to end the obesity epidemic in the United States. Simply the woman that Obama is helps amplify her message of empowerment, which is why I think it was such meaningful advice.

  2. I think Michelle Obama’s advice was meaningful for the audience she was addressing. If she were to come to our leadership class, this advice may not be as meaningful to us, because we’ve already talked about the importance of perception and social norms. We’ve faced the tough truth that hard work and faith may not truly be enough to achieve leadership positions as a woman. She would surely be able to give us all great advice and first hand experience in terms of facing the double bind and how to effectively develop a leadership identity, but this discussion wouldn’t be realistic for the young girls she was addressing. At their age, I think it’s important to encourage them to work hard and have faith so that when they are in college and navigating this process, they have the education and optimism to sit where we are now and have an academic discussion on women in leadership and how to move forward.

    I also found your comment on the clothing differences between Michelle Obama and Melania Trump to be interesting, having just read the articles for Monday’s class. The author’s of the articles encourage women to stop focusing on perception and focus on the leadership problems. Michelle’s tendency towards J. Crew when compared to Melania’s high-fashion taste makes it appear as though Michelle is more focused on the problem, rather than appearance, which I think contributes to her authenticity and power as a leader.

  3. Michelle Obama was undoubtedly a phenomenal relatable leader. She appeared on shows like Parks and Rec, Jimmy Fallon, and even partnered with Beyonce to raise awareness for her “Let’s Move!” campaign. She ingeniously reached a wide audience in an interesting way, which made her message that much more effective.

    I think the ideas of First Ladies being expected to have a platform is very interesting. Obviously, it’s amazing when women like Michelle Obama make great use of her wide audience and try to make a difference. In the case of Melania Trump, I don’t think she ever imagined becoming First Lady, so at times I wonder if taking a political stance is something she is interested in all. Although she has a great platform to speak on, she also married a businessman, not a senator, and most likely never contemplated her life in the political world until recently.

    Perhaps this lack of a political platform is why the media is focusing so much on her outfits. I personally never noticed Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices, although I’m sure the media made note of it as well. Either way, Michelle Obama gave great advice to young girls (as you mentioned), and is a great role model to help pave the way for future generations!

  4. Michelle Obama was an excellent and authentic leader in her role as the first lady and she continues to carry on her leadership abilities to this day. From a very early age, Michelle Obama began to develop her leadership potential. No matter the odds or the confrontations, she overcome them with exceptional grace and dignity. In her own words, when “they aim low, you aim high,” and this is exactly what she did. Instead of focusing on what everyone around was commenting, she remained grounded in her purpose. This is what I believe she is conveying to the next generation of female leadership. She is supporting them in her endeavors. Support in leadership is crucial for a leader to succeed. Michelle Obama was supported by many, she especially received support from her family.

    One of the obstacles that Mrs. Trump has the face is that she receives very little, if any support. This can be taxing on a person in a leadership position. She is judged not only for her actions, but also for her husbands. While Michelle Obama remained grounded in her purpose and had support when confrontation arose, Mrs. Trump lacks both. I agree that I do not believe she ever imagined herself in the political realm and was just shoved into the position due to her husband with no leadership training at all.

  5. I agree Michelle Obama was a great woman leader. However, I think the comparison between Michelle’s and Melania’s clothing choices seems like a low blow. Men’s clothing choices and prices are rarely discussed. She was relateable because of the way she conducted herself and the influence she had. Michelle was a first lady who wanted a legacy of her own and not just follow in her husband’s footsteps and be ornamental. However, I agree that being relatable is an important quality in a leader. If followers see themselves in the leader then they are more likely to be believe that they could be equally successful. Michelle Obama worked hard to be down to earth and encourage everyday children to get fit.

  6. I believe that her advice to keep putting forth hard work and faith is important to all people and is meaningful regardless of age or experience. I think the closer individuals think society is to achieving change the less effort we think we have to continue to put forth to truly reach the finish line, especially if it is a movement that has taken place over many generations. I think people tend to assume that because the generation before them worked so hard for something it shouldn’t be as hard or take as much effort for them to achieve the same goal. That would be like individuals sprinting through a relay race with passion and hope just for the last person to nonchalantly walk their way up to the finish line thinking they will still win the race as a result of the effort of the individuals before them and regardless of their own effort. As it relates to women in leadership we can’t just assume that since the “glass ceiling” has been broken by the women who came before us that our journeys will be less difficult or even different then theirs were in terms of how much effort and faith we put into achieving our goals as women.

  7. I believe that Mrs. Obama was a great first lady and did exemplify the characteristics of a leader who was very down to earth! On the other hand, I am a great fan of fashion, but fashion is scrutinized way too much when it comes to politics. I hear news about what designer clothes the first lady is wearing to what country and how it affects worldwide relations – that is ridiculous! People look way too into these little details when observing politicians, especially women politicians and it is so unnecessary. Men do not have to face this fashion standard that women are subjected to, which seems rather unfair. For example, reading articles about how Michelle Obama wears clothes from J. Crew sends a message to her followers that she is down to Earth rather than articles about what actions she is taking to show her followers that she is down to Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Michelle Obama and I do believe that she is down to Earth, but I believe that we need to stop judging women off of what they wear. I also understand that a lot of politics is scrutinizing these little details, but I think that it is important to take a step back when the news is reporting on what color suit Hilary Clinton wore and recognize that it should have no impact on the candidacy of a woman.

  8. I think Michelle Obama’s advice was very meaningful and great for the crowd she was addressing and motivating young girls to pursue their goals. However, I think that the price of clothing is irrelevant but rather how they represent themselves as a person. I think that many people may look at expensive clothing and think someone is “shallow” or on the other side of things “well off and successful”. Either way, it is sad how we as humans focus so much on appearance. I agree with that we need to represent ourselves in a professional clean manner when holding a leadership position but comparing prices of clothes seems a little extreme. I think that society has a big issue of judging women for what they wear.

  9. Completely setting aside political affiliation and centrally focusing on how much Michelle Obama accomplished throughout her husbands term as president, it is easy to say that she will forever go down in history as one of the most successful First Ladies of the United States. Her charisma, passion, and ways of leading the causes such as “Let’s Move,” impacted many lives of families for the better.

    To answer your questions, I believe the leadership style both inspired and encouraged families to become more active as well as raise awareness of the pressing issue. Her persona and connection was a stem of the inspiration because she was a woman of a very high power able to relate to the average citizen. I believe following through with the cause and the established campaign slogan of “Let’s Move” naturally raised awareness to people about obesity rates, and health issues caused by inactivity.

    Regarding the aspect of the clothes worn by the First Ladies, I agree that how you present yourself in public relates to how people will perceive you as an individual and I agree Melania Trump is not what one pictures as the average woman who would hold this role; however, I do not think that ones outfit of choice should define them. Melania has been a part of the fashion industry since she was born because mother was a designer. She has been successful in this world and fashion, design, as well as the aspect of beauty has been a pivotal aspect of her life and sincerely a passion. Honestly, I am layman to what “expensive” verses “more expensive” looks like and could not tell you the difference between costs on what each First Lady wore to certain events. Yes, Melania and President Trump have way more money than previous families or the average person, but I do not believe she should change her ways. If she did, personally I would interpret that to be more fake than relatable. I believe we should be focussing on what Mrs.Trump is doing/will do in the next few years holding the title as First Lady rather than basing her successes on the material she walks the street or the red carpet wearing.

  10. I remember when Obama was in office and Michelle was running her campaign for lets move and how around the same time the quality of our high schools cafeteria food drastically changed for the worst. I don’t know if she was the real cause of the change of the “healthy” food that we had a hard time to stomach, but regardless, us as high school kids saw a correlation and jokingly put the blame on her for our unsatisfactory school lunches. However, now being a college student and looking back on the impact she had on society, I see someone who took charge to make our country a better place when nobody was necessarily asking her to. I believe her impact on society brought more of a national awareness factor with focused on areas being more heavily impacted by her movement. I don’t remember her coming to my school but I do remember hearing about it and always saw her as and extension of President Obama and viewed them both as equally powerful leaders, a team, that had a huge amount of impact on our country.

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