Black Women Embrace First Lady’s Evolved Role

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    and her husband run a nonprofit after school and summer camp program focused on academics and athletics.

    ”Her mission for kids is our mission as well,” Stanley said, adding that her opinion of Obama has only gotten better. ”She has a major role now. People are always watching her. It takes a special person to deal with everything it takes to be first lady.”

    Spelman President Beverly Tatum said that although Obama may have had to put her career on hold, she still represents a long tradition of African-American women multitasking.

    ”If you look at the role Black women have held historically in society, we have been very much in the workplace as well as caretakers,” Tatum said. ”She’s making visible to the larger White community what we as African-American women have understood for generations. I would argue that she’s having a broader impact today because she has a much bigger platform.”

    Marian Mereba, who graduated with an English degree, said Obama is still a working mother who is using her position for the greater good.

    ”She’s still a beacon of strength and intelligence,” said Mereba, 23, from Philadelphia. ”She’s an amazing mother, which is also what a lot of us aspire to be. She shows that you can change the world and still raise a family.”

    In speaking at Spelman, Obama talked directly to the members of her husband’s most loyal electorate. Turnout at the polls among Black women in 2008 was 69 percent — for the first time making the single largest voting bloc that helped Obama become the country’s first Black president and a key demographic as he seeks re-election.

    Obama left the graduation ceremony early to attend a private fundraiser aimed at young Black professionals at a downtown Atlanta hotel.

    Many in this generation liken the Obamas to the real-life version of the fictional iconic Black couple, Cliff and Claire Huxtable, the doctor-lawyer duo who, along with their family, represented the colored version of the American dream. Actress Phylicia Rashad — who played the role of Claire — shared the stage with Obama on Sunday, receiving an honorary doctorate degree.

    While she gracefully declined to comment directly on the comparison, she called Obama ”a great lady who represents many of the ideals of womanhood as powerful, dynamic, creative and nurturing.”

    In an era where having it all — husband, career, children — is a bigger challenge than ever before for Black women, here comes Obama. That’s why she excited this generation of Spelman about their own possibilities, without even trying to.

    Perry-Ponder, who has heard Obama speak twice before and hopes to one day meet her to say thank you.

    ”She has moved from a state, to the nation, to the world,” said Perry-Ponder. ”I get goose bumps just saying that.”

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