Peter, age 8, writes to Michelle Obama. He has a beef about the first lady’s healthy eating campaign: “I think you should rethink your idea that takes us to one ketchup packet per meal. I feel that it is taking away our patriotism toward America.”
He then attacks President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and adds, “I also think your husband needs to work on his speeches.”
The letter, published last week in The Weekly Standard, took Peter months to write, his father said. He was “too angry” to go on.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama hosts a White House celebration of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. A pig-tailed little girl asks her, “How old are you?” Obama pauses, then responds, “51.” The girl exclaims, “you look too young for 51!” She gets a bountiful “Michelle hug” in return.
Two images, two messages, from the mouths of babes.
Michelle Obama fares well in popularity polls, “yet public reaction was often binary,” writes Peter Slevin in the new book, “Michelle Obama: A Life.”
“Adore. Abhor. Respect. Reject. Warm, wise and embracing. Haughty, petty and disdainful.”
Slevin, a former Washington Post reporter based in Chicago, covered Barack Obama’s campaigns and relied on dozens of conversations with friends, family and others to trace her historic orbit.
He draws a hyper intelligent, charismatic and complex woman molded by working-class parents in segregated Chicago.
Marian Robinson was “steadfast, and disciplined, and always with her,” Slevin relates, as she raised Michelle and brother Craig in a cramped South Shore flat. Fraser C. Robinson III provided for the family’s body and soul, toiling at the city water-filtration plant, up until the day he succumbed, at 55, to multiple sclerosis.
They offered unlimited love, but no excuses. They kept Michelle’s feet on the ground and, in turn, she helped anchor a future president, Slevin said Thursday at the Institute of Politics of the University of Chicago.
“These values that she talks about, this tension growing up, that her parents also felt, growing up in a place where, in a world where the deck is stacked against her because of her race and because of her class,” he said.
Yet the message: “Get up there, you can do it, you can be somebody.”
Obama toppled the stacked decks, time and again. At Princeton University, Harvard Law School, a top-tier Chicago law firm, City Hall, the University of Chicago, the White House.
She stood up to inequality and injustice. It connected. “What I saw out there on the campaign trail,” Slevin recalled, “was her ability to connect with voters of all kinds — remember how important Iowa was, and how unlikely it was at the time that Barack Obama and Michelle Obama could win as many hearts and minds as they did.”
Hence, her creation of the health and fitness initiative, “Let’s Move,” her campaign for military families, and her passion for mentoring, as that little girl in pigtails might attest.
As the letter-writing Peter (or perhaps an influential parent) might suggest, the first lady carries a political cross for her husband.
Slevin’s book documents the “vile” commentary and imagery about Michelle Obama, propagated on the Internet, cable news and in “political” discourse.
The haters are plainly racist.
Michelle Obama’s power to connect prevails.