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Meeting Michelle Obama

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By Judy Macklin

Michelle Obama is a charmer.

I know, because I was totally charmed by her.

One day I was eating a sandwich at my desk at work; the next day I was having cake with Michelle Obama and John Kerry. They were in Nevada promoting Michelle’s husband, Barack Obama, for the Nevada caucus, and 75 people were gathered in Jane Howe’s home to meet Michelle and John.

The caucus is one of a whirlwind of historic moments in Michelle’s life.

So often someone is defined in the public mind by a snippet on television. Because of snippets I had seen, I thought Michelle Obama was a political woman with a hard edge. She’s a political woman, but with a woman’s soft
touch.

Unlike another candidate who after 500 years in politics says she just “found my voice,” Michelle Obama found her voice long ago. It is unmanufactured, clear, real and natural.

It’s also rousing and rhymthic. One imagines arguments between Michelle and Barack being in iambic pentameter.

Michelle Obama was wearing a stylish tan belted-dress, accessorized by a turquoise necklace and a gold bracelet on her wrist. One of the most striking things about her appearance is her beautiful hands; she has long fingers which add extra expressiveness to her gestures.

I am 5’8” and when we met I realized she is two inches taller than me. One woman remarked to Michele that she has a flip in her hair like Jackie Kennedy’s.

A significant portion of the audience was upscale African-American women, and they were especially receptive to Michelle’s comment: “I am just a black girl from the south side of Chicago. Life is hard for regular folks now. Regular folks can’t live a simple life anymore, like I grew up with.”

Michelle yearned for, “A world where my two daughters would be able to travel anywhere in the world with dignity and pride, with no fear.”

She had the audience enrapt.

“That’s why we’re here, right?” she asked. “For our children and their world.”

Michelle fired her ultimate challenge, “I ask you to dream. It is where everything begins.”

The audience erupted into wild applause.

When Michelle introduced John Kerry, he gave her a birthday gift. That day was Michelle Obama’s birthday. The gift was a red shirt that said, “We did it again.” John Kerry is a Red Sox fan.

We don’t give away our ages, so just let me say Michelle was not 43 or 45.

Kerry, looking handsome in a blue blazer and gray slacks, said, “Barack has more legislative experience than any other candidate in the Democratic caucus. I want a President again who can inspire.”

Then Kerry delivered the potent line, “We don’t need a transitional President; we need a transformational President.”

Along with the galvanic politics, there were a lot of nice, personal moments. Michelle Obama was at the center of them.

When an 11-year old girl asked to have her picture taken with Michelle, Michelle knelt down and put her arm around her. The picture-taker was taking a long time, so Michelle asked, “Is that your father?” When the girl said ‘yes,’ Michelle joked, “Men have trouble with cameras.”

I had a copy of Barack’s book, “Dreams from My Father,” which my husband had given me, and she signed it.

When I talked with her, Michelle had the gift of focusing on me and making it special. She gave me her undivided attention. Michelle was like this with everyone. Her arms around people’s waists and shoulders, a hug here, a tap there.

Sometimes inspirational, sometimes low-key, Michelle Obama has the range and grace that may bring back memories of Camelot. After the recent wasteland, it’s a wonderful vision.

And I was there to hear its echo and to see its reflection.

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