OPINION/POLITICS

MICHELLE OBAMA:
IN THE SPOTLIGHT

When it comes to sports I’m always on point when it comes to predicting winners.

This year I picked the improbable Giants in the Super Bowl, the Celtics in the NBA Finals and I’ll go with Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open. But when it comes to politics, I’ve not been so lucky. Mostly, it’s because I tend to go with my heart instead of my gut.

On Monday night when Michelle Obama strolled onto the Pepsi Center stage at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I realized that this time my heart and gut were working in tandem. I’m booking my ticket to D.C. for the inauguration of President Obama. Michelle’s speech should not only have an impact on the polls in the coming days—which currently have Barack Obama and John McCain running neck-and-neck—but her words were so profoundly personal and inclusive that I imagine some of my European friends will want to cast absentee votes in our November election. They’re already wearing Obama T-shirts.

I loved the way she began her speech, acknowledging her family—particularly her father who died in 1991. That proves she knows what really matters at the end of the day. That’s something Michelle didn’t learn at Princeton or Harvard. That’s a byproduct of good home training.

I loved that she’s a daddy’s girl—just like me—and understands that in the still of the night when the boogieman is in the closet, there’s no greater feeling than a strong, fatherly embrace. I’m sure he gave her a big hug before and after her speech last night.

I was humbled by her journey, going from Chicago’s South Side to center stage at the DNC on a night that included a heartfelt tribute to a true American icon and Obama supporter, Sen. Ted Kennedy. The contrast between those two journeys is worth pondering—if only for a minute.

I admired her grace as she acknowledged the achievements of Hillary Clinton, saying Sen. Clinton put those “18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.” She didn’t have to do that.

I applauded her honesty as she talked about her “handsome” husband in such a loving way. I’ve never seen any other potential First Lady go there at a globally televised political convention. I guess she couldn’t help it though. The man is fine.

And as a black woman sitting around her flat in sweat pants and a T-shirt, I just dug the way she looked. The form-fitting green dress was tight and the hair was bouncing and behaving. Somebody, somewhere hooked her up. It was inspiring on many levels.

Warmly introduced by her older brother Craig, Michelle remained poised throughout her 20-plus minute speech. Some folks think that the Harvard-trained attorney, who gave up the big bucks to work as an unpaid volunteer in a community program, is a better orator than her old man. This could be true. But the one thing that ties them together is that they know they are both standing on the shoulders of the folks who came before them and took all the hits.

They have Ivy League degrees because Barack’s single mother and Michelle’s working-class parents paved a path so smooth that their kids would never have to know the true meaning of a dream deferred. Michelle cleverly used the experiences of her past to bridge the gaps between her and the rich white families in Beverly Hills, the poor white single mother with six kids in Appalachia, the wealthy self-made black woman in Atlanta, the forgotten Native American living on a reservation in Arizona, the middle class Asian immigrant now enjoying life in the home of the brave and land of the free and the proud Latina grandmother who has seen several generations of her family succeed against the odds.

On Monday night Michelle sang a tune whose lyrics are known by many Americans, but it rang even more true and sounded even more familiar when performed by woman hitting all the right notes.

The one thing that really hit home was when she talked about the hopes and dreams for her own kids—Malia and Sasha. Michelle said when she tucks them into bed at night she thinks about the stories they’ll tell their kids about this very special time in American history. “They’ll tell them how this time we listened to our hopes instead of our fears,” she said. And at the end of this day, that’s really what this election is all about. It’s about all of us realizing that fear really isn’t an inherent emotion, but rather a learned behavior perpetuated by years of inequity in America.

Some folks are afraid to vote for a black man because of what their friends might think. Some folks, like my 82-year-old mother who has lived through the assassinations of other men who tried to affect change, are afraid that Barack will suffer the same fate. We are a nation of scaredy cats. But Michelle believes that her husband can help alleviate our fears. She’s convinced that he will unite us, that he can re-ignite the flame that was doused decades ago when bullets cut short the lives of Kennedy, King, Kennedy; Malcolm and Medgar, too.

Time will tell if Barack is that man. But right now we need to tap into our collective guts and go with what we know.

Michelle is our woman.

Miki Turner is a poor little colored girl from the suburbs who has the courage of her convictions. Her writings have been featured in Essence, Ebony, Upscale and MSNBC.com. She can be reached at devodiva1@aol com. Her periodic dispatches from the world of entertainment, politics and society can be read here at www.urbanthoughtcollective.com.


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