Who better than our first lady, Michelle Obama, to grace the cover of the October 23rd issue of T, the New York Times Style Magazine?
Looking every bit the poised and gracious icon we have come to adore these last years, it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. But you’ll want to, as this feature isn’t about her beauty. The issue includes 4 love letters written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jon Meacham, Gloria Steinem and Rashida Jones. Each letter, praising our beloved First Lady for her many contributions to the world.
I could try to sum up what each letter details, but I couldn’t begin to emulate the emotion and beauty encapsulated in each word.
Here are some of the excerpts of the letters from each writer:
Because she said what she thought, and because she smiled only when she felt like smiling, and not constantly and vacuously, America’s cheapest caricature was cast on her: the Angry Black Woman. Women, in general, are not permitted anger — but from black American women, there is an added expectation of interminable gratitude, the closer to groveling the better, as though their citizenship is a phenomenon that they cannot take for granted.
All women struggle to reconcile the different people that we are at all times, to merge our conflicting desires, to represent ourselves honestly and feel good about the inherent contradictions. But Michelle manages to do this with poise, regardless of the scrutiny.
After a decade under a public microscope, she has managed what no other first lady — and few people in any public position — have succeeded in doing: She has lived a public life without sacrificing her privacy and authenticity. She made her husband both more human and effective as a president by being his interpreter and defender, but also someone we knew was capable of being his critic. Eventually, she spoke up about the pain of the racist assumptions directed at her, but she waited until her husband could no longer be politically punished for her honesty. And she has always been the best kind of mother, which means insisting that fathers be equal parents. All of this she has done with honesty, humor and, most important, kindness.
Jon Meacham writes:
The Obama skeptics and the Obama haters have from time to time questioned her patriotism, but this is the same country that managed, in some quarters, to hold Eleanor Roosevelt in contempt. The important thing is that Mrs. Obama, a clear-eyed lawyer, found a way to withstand the scrutiny of the spotlight. In point of fact, she did more than withstand it. To borrow a phrase from William Faulkner, she not only endured it; she prevailed over it.