herald

Saturday 1 November 2014

Michelle won over generation of women as Mom-in-Chief

In the race to the White House, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney split US opinion almost as much as their husbands did.

Voters were gripped by the contrast between the life and times of the former lawyer and the glamorous grandmother of 18. Ann and Michelle have used everything from cookie recipes to personal anecdotes to sell their husband as the next president.

But their most important weapon has been their own life experiences.

The now 48-year-old Michelle Robinson Obama attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School before returning to Chicago and to work at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met Barack.

She is the mother of two daughters, Malia and Sasha, and uses the term 'Mom-in-Chief' to define her White House role.

She has also become a fashion icon and role model for women, while her campaigning for poverty awareness, nutrition and healthy eating might soften the blow of allowing her career take a back seat.

In the red corner we have Ann Lois Romney (63). She attended Brigham Young University, married Mitt Romney in 1969, having converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in 1975 received a Bachelor of Arts degree in French. She is mum to five grown-up boys and, it has to be said, one of the most glamorous grandmothers on the planet.



CHALLENGES

While some have been keen to claim that as a stay-at-home mum, and one with considerable wealth, Ann is out of touch with the daily grind of normal life, she has faced her own challenges along the way.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, and in 2008 she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a non-invasive type of breast cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy in December of the same year and has since been cancer-free. Both women are articulate, intelligent and fiercely devoted to their families.

Yet there is a generation between them and that matter of dateline is what might have polarised public opinion -- or the female vote, to be more precise.

In that space of time the landscape changed utterly for women all over the world -- the possibilities offered to us seemed to become unlimited.

Ann is of a generation where in this country you had to give up your job if you married. The next generation of women produced high achievers like Michelle Obama who thought they could have it all. Women are no longer sure being a stressed-out working mother, or a woman who has delayed motherhood for her career, is the key to happiness.

There's no doubt that a fair chunk of the six billion spent on this election was designed to get the female vote -- and that is why Michelle's decision to define her first term as FLOTUS as a Mom-in-Chief, who also campaigns for serious issues such as childhood obesity policies, was genius.

hnews@herald.ie

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