Her success in the White House has had as much to do with her comfort with herself as with what might be her central precept: never believe that there is a room you have no right to walk into. It’s a message that she has delivered in speeches at historically black colleges and in her mentorship of girls. It has also come across in her work, with Jill Biden, to support military families. As the stages got bigger, Obama’s oratory became more dominant and yet, at the same time, more intimate. In one of her enduring speeches, given at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, she revisited her fears that the Presidency would change her husband. What she had realized, she said, was that power doesn’t change who you are—“it reveals who you are.”
Her cool seems effortless, though her control of it is precise. Her iconoclasm gains strength from its fusion with irreproachability. She has been cheerfully scrupulous about White House traditions and rituals, including such niceties as designing what will be known as the Obama China. The trim color is Kailua Blue, an homage to the waters off Honolulu, where her husband grew up. She brought out the new china for tea with Melania Trump, two days after the election. “Melania liked Mrs. O a lot!” President-elect Trump tweeted afterward. Indeed, Melania, in her Convention speech, had photocopied Michelle.
…no one should doubt that Michelle Obama’s courage has left an indelible mark. Her time as First Lady changed this country and clarified its vision. And she has been one of the revelations.
Amy Davidson, “Mrs. Obama”, The New Yorker (2 January 2017), 18.