"What First Impressions Will The First Lady Have On Our Generation." By Valerie Read

The role of the First Lady is to support the President during his office and to make that the needs of the country's leader are met first. That seemed to work at first, but later on the roles of First Ladies in the twentieth and twentieth first century changed. It seemed that the President was out shown by his wife the First Lady and her tributes to the office had become history.

During the reign of President Roosevelt his wife Eleanor Roosevelt had made a decision that she would not be a dutiful First Lady and dedicated her life to be a true human activist. She spoke out about African-American rights, the poor of West Virginia, working women, and migrant workers. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday, December 7, 1941 Eleanor focused her attention to visiting the wounded soldiers, and bringing back information on the war back to her husband. After the death of her husband Eleanor continued her work by joining the NAACP, The League of Women Voters, and was appointed to the United Nations. Eleanor supported the Human Rights Amendment and attended Democratic conventions in support of John F. Kennedy in 1960. She was invited to John F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration in 1961. Eleanor passed away on November 7, 1962 and left a legacy for other First Ladies to accomplish in their time during their husband's place in office at the White House. The Presidential office taken on by John F. Kennedy from January 20, 1961 to the assignation of his life on November 22 1963 was a time in history still embedded in all our minds.

The First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy made her goal to have a private life away from the press for the first family and found other ways to make use of their time in the White House. Jacqueline decided to restore the family and public rooms in the White House. She created a team of advisors lead by American Expert Henry DuPont who aided the first lady to search ware houses for White House furniture and solicit the nation to donate valuable historical artifacts. Jacqueline got Congress to pass the law number 87286 to make the donated furniture and art to belong to the White House. When she published her book The White House: An Historic Guide it helped fund the created White House Historical Association which gave force to appointing a White House Curator to continue her efforts in keeping the historical preservation of the White House. In the years to follow Jacqueline's love for the arts brought the arrival of opera, ballet, Shakespeare, and jazz to the White House all performed by American companies. Jacqueline supported her husband by traveling with him and was the most traveled First Lady in history. She made her mark by speaking Spanish in Miami, December 1962 after the Bay of Pigs to the Brigade of Cuban fighters. President Kennedy had said that His wife Jacqueline was the best weapon the US had and gave her a silver calendar to memorize that difficult time in our country's history. The one important part that Jacqueline will be remembered by is her sense of style and being unique in any project she set to complete.

In the turbulent time of the US involvement in Vietnam, Lady Bird Johnson had her own troubles at home. Mrs. Johnson's husband had become president after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963 and now had to help a grieving country who had just lost their president. Lady Bird Johnson in respect to Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy kept out of the public eye and continued the projects that the former First Lady had started during her time in the White House. Mrs. Johnson had to deal with the daily out bursts of protestors outside the White House and decided to focus her time to helping the nation. Her interests in Environmentalism, raising the President's awareness of women in public service, strong supporter of higher education for women, provide education and nutrition for underprivileged children. She started the Project Head Start program which has stayed in place for forty years and is administrated by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The one thing that was important to Lady Bird Johnson was the preservation of national parks, urban and rural environments, anti-pollution measures of water and air.

During the twentieth and twentieth first century the roles of First Lady changed and each woman added something for the next generation to come. Pat Nixon's role of First Lady during January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974 was marked by good and bad parts of our history. She became the First Lady to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment, give her opinion on pro-choice view ..ion to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, lobby her husband to support a woman to the Supreme Court, and was the first liberated women to wear pants on the front of a magazine. The resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 was something that Pat Nixon tried to stop, but in the end kept her head high when making arrangements to move out of the White House and moving back to San Clemente, California.

Betty Ford's husband Gerald Ford was sworn in after Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. Betty Ford was known for her frankness and she was opened about abortion rights, and her desire to see women on the Supreme Court. Her discovery of a lump in her breast that took Betty on a road to surgery and treatment, this helped the women of this country become aware of breast examination and early treatment if diagnosed with breast cancer. The one aspect of her private life was Betty's addiction to pain medication from a pinch nerve in her neck and continued in abuse with alcohol. Her family and friends persuaded Betty to get help. This helped direct Betty to create The Betty Ford Treatment Center located in Rancho Mirage, California.

Rosalynn Carter was the First lady to be a political activist in the White House and was public on her aide to President Jimmy Carter during his four years in office from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981. In those short four years Rosalynn made her job to sit in meetings taking notes with the cabinet members and sitting with President Carter to discuss what she agreed or disagreed on. She was the only First Lady to hold her office in the East Wing, where this space was held for the social, correspondence, scheduling, and projects of the president's staff. Rosalynn worked with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Harris and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano. In 1979, the federal government recognized the role of the First Lady as a "bona fide federal position" because of how Rosalynn Carter "assisted in her duty to support the president". She worked as the Active Honorary Chair of the President's Commission on Mental Health in February 17, 1977 which gave her direction to support the over haul on the law of 1963 that looked over the health insurance coverage, public housing, Medicaid, and Medicare, and state support of the Chronically Mentally ill. Her constant attention to this issue gave way in the development of a law for the rights of mentally ill patients and after touring the facilities gave push for increased benefits on federal grants that was over looked or a length of time was limited. Rosalynn Carter testified before the Senate Committee on Health on what she found that lacked and could be improved on the care of mentally ill patients. This helped the Mental Health Systems Act to become a law on September 1980. Rosalynn also focused her time to the Senior Citizens, and pressured Congress to pass the Age Discrimination Act to end the age requirement to retire within the work place, the Older American Act to aide in services for the elderly, Rural Clinics Act, and reform for Social Security to help seniors when they retire. She promoted community voluntarism, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, under took political assignments with foreign allies, which was a first for The First Lady, and was the American Representative to welcome Pope John Paul II when he made his first trip to the US in 1979. She continued on the traditional, first started with Jacqueline Kennedy, by bringing music and art to the White House.

During Nancy Reagan time of being First Lady during January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989 her first role was to make the White House a home. She promoted drug education and prevention programs for young adults and children by traveling 250,000 visiting schools, making public announcements on television and writing articles, and support of the Grandparents program. Another part of Nancy's life was the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981 and after that made it her priority to make sure her husband's safety was the number one thing for the rest of his term in office. Nancy Reagan's role toward the end of her husband's term in office was helping the friendship between President Ronald Reagan and the new Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, which helped the negotiation of the 1987 INF TREATY that called for the sudden destruction of all intermediate range nuclear missiles.

Barbara Bush's main goal during her time as First Lady from January 20, 1989 to January 1993 was to make this country aware of illiteracy and received help in promoting to end this by experts, publishers, financial supporters, volunteers, school administrators and national, state, and local civic leaders in their communities. She founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Illiteracy, a private organization that requested grants from public and private institutions to support illiteracy programs. Her attention to supporting programs that assisted the homeless, children with aides, higher education for women, aiding the president during his time in office gave Barbara Bush the highest approval ratings and was called "A Key Element of the Administration" by Republican Iowa Congressman Jim Leach.

Hillary Clinton was appointed in the first five days of being First Lady by her husband President Bill Clinton to be ahead of the President's Task Force on Health Reform, overseeing research, investigatory trips, financial reports, numerous committees of medical and insurance professionals, lawmakers, and other government officials, public service leaders, and consumer rights advocates. Hillary was the First Lady to testify before Congress on health reform in September 1993, and her list of accomplishments were the Children's Health Insurance Program of 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families act of 1997, she wrote an article on orphaned children in 1995, the Foster Care Independence bill, Hillary held conferences in the White House on Children Health in 1997, and on school violence in 1999. Hillary focused her support on the development of children by creating the program "Prescription for Reading" which Pediatricians gave books to young mothers to read to their babies during the brain's active development period, and to prevent cancer in older women helped the mammograms tests get covered by Medicare. She was the First to hold a office in the West Wing, the one the president went to before he made any of his decisions, and kept an active interest in the politics or foreign policies her husband was involved in by the aide of her staff. The speech that First Lady Hillary Clinton made that caused a controversy was on the subject of Equal Rights for Women on September 1995 at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Scandal was a part of being a First Lady that included the Whitewater scandal and the affair between the President with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. She continued on the tradition of the preservation of history in the White House by creating the Save America's Treasure Program, displayed works of donated pieces of art, and display of pottery and glassware in the White House. Hillary had the Blue Room on the second floor restored, and redecorated the Treaty Room in the President's room on the second floor. She hosted many dinner parties for visiting dignitaries, help raise funds for music education in the schools, helped plan a massive 21st century New Year Eves party and the 2000 November Bicentennial White House State Dinner, which held a numerous party of former First Ladies and Presidents that made history. On November 7, 2000 Hillary Clinton became the first former First Lady to be elected to public office as the U.S. Senator for New York City in our history.

The last thing a First Lady wants is to enter office after a strike on American soil and that was what Laura Bush had to deal with during her time under President Bush from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009. Laura Bush's first priority was the American People and she spoke out ..ing adults to assist the children in coping on what has happened when the US was hit during the 9/11 attacks, and on November 17, 2001 it was the first time when a First Lady addressed the nation on the behalf of the President of the United States. Laura Bush was a former librarian and focused her energy on the education of the children in this country by speaking in front of the Senate Education Committee, and asking for higher salaries for teachers, and better training for Head Start and day care workers. Laura is a advocate for teachers and was proud when her husband the President signed in the Administration's No Child Left Behind Act on January 2002, which provide federal funds to recruit new teachers, improve training, or raise pay and in continuation of her support of teachers in January 2004 Laura announced the creation of the American History Teacher's of the Year Award. She supported her husband, but also kept her political believe system on support of Roe vs. Wade, Gay Marriage should be public decision and not judicial. Laura helped create a new teacher- training institute for women in Afghanistan, and brought a bill named after her "Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program" in public law 109-149 which gave federal spending of $24 million to recruit, train, and educate librarians. She has brought public awareness on what the young people are facing and how heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in this country. Each of these women have found a place in forging their own path by speaking out on women's rights, education, children's welfare, patient's health, health coverage, political activism on human rights and equal rights for everyone in this country. The First Ladies made a goal to continue in restoring the history of the White House and support of the arts.

On January 20, 2009, Michelle Obama will enter the White House has the new First Lady, with her husband Barack Obama and two daughters, Malia and Natasha. What will her role be in the White House? She will have to decide on that for herself. Will Michelle Obama be an activist and focus on her own politics like her predecessors? How about the restoration and preservation of the history in the White House? In this moment it will depend on what is important to Michelle Obama and how it will affect her family. We can only imagine what is running through her mind at the precise moment when Michelle Obama and her family enter the White House. Her main focus will be her husband Barack Obama, and their two daughters Malia and Natasha. She will try to make this residence a home for her family and make the transition of moving into a new house. Michelle Obama will be quick to ask other former First Ladies questions on how to set up her office and staff, what schools will be the best for her two daughters, and what good or bad experiences they had in the White House, and how they dealt with them all.

After reading several articles on Michelle Obama's interest in the Peace Corps and how she will help with aide for the families of the soldiers who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. We can get some picture of what her main goals will be and her support of Obama's plan as President in the new year.

The one thing in all of our minds is that Michelle Obama will make history as the first African-American First Lady in the White House and that she has a heavy burden resting on her shoulders. That burden is how Michelle Obama represents the African-American community of Women in this country and gives solid proof of how a women who has a higher education, and a successful career can achieve in their lifetime. It will be a test that Michelle Obama will work hard to pass every day of her life on any issue that she will focus on and bring our attention to it's importance.

Michelle Obama's private life and that of her children will now change and another public life will start in its place. Every thought or motion Michelle Obama and her family makes will be watched and criticized. So the new First Lady will have to lay down some ground rules that will help maintain some privacy for herself, and her family.

Michelle Obama will be entering a life where her husband, she, and their daughters will be guarded seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for the rest of their lives. It will be something to get used to on a daily basis and a new step for Michelle Obama, because it will be a very public life. There are always sacrifices that all First Ladies have to make and personal safety is not one of them.

I think that as a nation that instead of comparing Michelle Obama to pass First Ladies, such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. That the people of this country should wait to see what Michelle Obama will change, and accomplish in her time in the White House. The decisions that she makes will affect her place in the history books. It's a chance of a lifetime to be First Lady of the White House and there are those who wish or miss a chance at this job, and others who make a mark by just being there.

References:

Web page Betterbuilt.com. Copyright 2005. "Welcome to The National First Ladies' Library". 10 November 2008. http://www.firstladies.org/index.htm

Journal article on web Wolffe, Richard. "Interview: Michelle On The Move". Newsweek. 5 November 2008. http://www.newsweek.com/id/167813

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