A volunteer handed out the fourth of six banners for the evening. “Take one and pass it down,” she said. “Wave it after the Michelle video.” Unlike the other rectangular cardstock posters we’d been given, this was a three-dimensional vertical popsicle stick of a thing. White type on a blue background, it said simply, “MICHELLE.” On cue, we rose to our feet and held her name up high, as she walked to the podium, seemingly unfazed by the roar of the crowd, the flashing of lightbulbs all around her, the giant images of herself on the several massive screens suspended in midair. It was her moment, and she seemed absolutely ready for it.
We had just watched a slickly produced video of her life. Narrated by her mother, Marion Robinson, it traced her beginnings as the only daughter of a stay-at-home mother and a hard-working father who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his 30s. It charted her through her days a diligent Ivy League undergrad and law student, her first meeting with Barack at a major Chicago law firm where he was her subordinate and she at first rejected his advances. We saw how he ultimately wooed her after a company picnic with an invitation to get ice cream. We learned that she left her cushy law firm job to pursue a career in nonprofit work, community outreach work, public service work. We were told that she was a woman of deep compassion, inherited from her father. That she was someone others looked to as a problem solver, a motivator, a model of groundedness and humility, authenticity and excellence, high ideals and grace.
As I took my seat, sitting eagerly on it’s edge, waiting, with her, for the crowd to settle down, it hit me: There she stood, as thousands cheered, a woman, like me. Age 43, like me. Raised in the inner city, like me. A daughter, who lost a father she adored, like me. A wife and mother of two, like me. A professional, trying to balance the demands of work and family, like me. Black, like me. I was breathless with pride and astonishment that a moment I didn’t believe would come in my lifetime had, in fact, arrived. The fact that I was present, to witness it in person, filled me with gratitude and awe. Her speech — I hung on every sentence, cheering, celebrating, reveling in every word — was brilliantly crafted and masterfully communicated. When her daughters Sasha and Malia joined her onstage and the three of them caught sight of Barack, piped in via satellite to congratulate Michelle, their faces — all of four of them — lit up with love and joy. That type of sentiment cannot be manufactured, certainly not in children who are ages 10 and 7. Any mother will tell you that.
In the aftermath, there was almost universal approval. A female Massachusetts delegate went so far as to say, “I can’t wait for her to run!” A friend texted me from Maryland: “The girl is baaad!” My cousin texted from Charlotte: “WOW.” Debbie