The “New Obama”: Michelle Keeps Hope Alive

From The New Yorker:

Michelle-speech-cassidyIt was powerful stuff:

We learned about dignity and decency—that how hard you work matters more than how much you make…. That helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself. We learned about honesty and integrity—that the truth matters…. That you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules … and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square. We learned about gratitude and humility—that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…. And we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect. Those are the values Barack and I—and so many of you—are trying to pass on to our own children. That’s who we are.

In the final part of the speech, she drew the threads together, insisting that her husband, in fighting for things like equal pay for women, universal health care, and a thriving auto industry, was simply doing what he had always done.

Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it … and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago. He’s the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work…. Because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.

If that last line was an indirect jab at her husband’s opponent, it was about the only one in the speech. Rather than trying to tear down Romney and the G.O.P., she tried to elevate her husband and his works, assuring disappointed Democrats and independents that, she, for one, still had faith in him. Obviously, it was a one-sided speech. She glossed over Obama’s comfortable upbringing in Hawaii, failed to mention his role in bailing out Wall Street banks, and didn’t mention the housing crisis, the soaring deficit, or the fall in median income. But that was hardly her role. She came to bolster Obama, and in doing so she demonstrated that effective speeches don’t have to be full of attack lines. Direct statements, sincere expressions of personal feeling, and a bit of poetry can do the job just as well. So, let us praise Michelle Obama, a tall, glamorous, intelligent, and strong-minded daughter of the Windy City who finally came into her own, without any apologies or histrionics. She may well be sincere when she says that she has no political ambitions of her own. But after Tuesday evening, the option will always be there.

More here.