Michelle Obama visited Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday night. She came to the home of my dear friend, Karen Beauford, where she delivered an eloquent stump speech before leaving us to eat a fancy dinner and talk “democrat” with each other.
The Secret Service swarmed the place, which was a little unsettling to say the least, but for me, after a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the Secret Service functioned more like a bunch of worried statues with nothing to worry about. The closest thing to a threat that night was the incessant strobe of an errant spotlight blinking off and on throughout Michelle O.’s speech. The light was centered on her face, making it hard to ignore. A glance over my shoulder to the back corner of the room revealed a mortified lighting crew who could do nothing about the light-with-a-mind-of-its-own. I suspect the light was blinking simply because the cord had gotten wet–it was also raining heavily as she spoke, and we were sitting under a tent. But Michelle O. didn’t miss a beat, she didn’t even address the problem of the blinking light, which could be likened to the annoying strobe light at a rave you went to in your twenties, or worse, it could be the ever-present–and soon to get worse–annoyance of the GOP trying to run interference in an election year for an incumbent president whom, despite the dead weight of Congress, has made SERIOUS PROGRESS in trying times. If it had been me speaking up there last night with that light blinking in my face I would have said something, or I might have gotten angry, or worse, I might have forgotten my message. But Michelle O. doesn’t do any of those things: she is calm, focused, and not distracted by the strobe light–just like her husband.
I spent a good part of the day before Michelle O.’s arrival visiting various women’s clothing stores, telling the clerks I was looking for something “business attire,” because that was the stated dress code for the night. At the first store in my search there was a very helpful woman who made it her purpose to fill my dressing room with various outfits she deemed business attire, which, in her opinion, were a bunch of sleeveless, floral-print dresses. My Google search earlier in the day had informed me that “business attire” does not include sleeveless, floral-print dresses, so I hung out in the dressing room for a while playing Words with Friends, then left, telling her nothing was a good fit–I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. You’ll see from my picture that Michelle O. showed up in a sober, blue, sleeveless dress. If I had Michelle O.’s arms, I’d probably go sleeveless, too. That’s Michelle O. for you–she colors inside the lines, but only so much. Michelle O. is not afraid to break with tradition, especially when tradition is to pay women less than men for the same work (thank you, Barack Obama, for passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act), or when tradition is hiding a great pair of biceps.
My friend, Karen, introduced The First Lady of the United States with a speech of her own. Wait. I have to type that again. My friend, Karen, introduced The First Lady of the United States with a speech of her own. The text of Karen’s speech is copied below. While Wednesday night was a public moment of Democratic unity for Charlottesville, it was also a private moment of immense pride for my friend. Karen and I hightailed it out of Minnesota to drive to Virginia together way back in 1999–when Jessie Ventura was Governor and Bill Clinton was rockin’ the White House–in my red Saturn coupe. A lot has changed since then.
Below is Karen’s speech:
“Welcome! Thank you for being here. We are pleased to have you with us this evening as we come together to support the 2012 Obama Victory Fund. We are delighted to have with us tonight the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.A number of Republicans are currently vying to secure their party’s nomination for president. This fall, they will throw everything they have at us. They have their eyes set on the White House, but we are all here to see this doesn’t happen.The last three years have made us so proud to have Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House. The accomplishments of this administration are many. After inheriting an economy in free fall, our president guided our country back from the brink; economic indicators are now moving in the right direction. Financial reform and consumer protections have been instituted. After 80 years of effort, a national health care plan has finally been put in place. The war in Iraq is over, terrorists have been thwarted.While our president has been fighting these good fights, our amazing First Lady has been right there by his side. Simultaneously, she strives tirelessly to draw attention to other important issues. She makes it a priority to focus the attention of the nation on the plight of military families and injured soldiers. She sets a great example for one of her other key causes, the “Let’s Move!” campaign, which aims to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. She encourages healthy eating and active living, and planted the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady. Let’s face it, a woman of Michelle Obama’s caliber does not tend to be introduced according to what her husband does for a living. A woman who graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School, who has pursued an ambitious career in her own right, who has fought for diversity and justice, who has managed to balance work and motherhood – quite frankly would be an impressive role model no matter the status of her spouse. Aren’t we privileged to have such a woman devoting her time to the duties of First Lady of the United States? We are honored to have her here tonight. So on that note, let’s give a warm Charlottesville welcome to our First Lady, Michelle Obama!”