I was a little annoyed this morning when the #3 article in my google news feed boasted the headline Michelle Obama shops incognito at Target . I mean, seriously, celebrity gossip crowding out the occupation of Wall Street, Massachusetts furor over Secure Communities, and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki? All the same, I clicked.
The very short story and photos of Michele Obama, with a hat and sunglasses on, checking out at Target, had an unanticipated impact on me. I haven’t given Michele Obama a thought in ages, but seeing her with her Target plastic bags reminded me that she is a real person whom I encountered several times during our overlapping years at the University of Chicago and in Hyde Park. She always impressed me as a kind, smart, competent and engaged person. In recovering that understanding of her, I also mentally revisited my 1998 encounter with Barak Obama, then our Hyde Park representative attending a meet & greet hosted by the Chicago Area Project, a well-established community building organization in which I was interning. I spoke to Obama for a good amount of time – about how he grew up in Hawaii, his love of community organizing, life in Hyde Park. I was also impressed by his friendly demeanor, his passion and intellect.
In reviving these memories I found that the anger I had been nursing for the past year or so, the growing disillusionment and hostility toward a President that has either abandoned or diluted every campaign promise that I thought mattered, is tempered a bit. Being the President of the United States is probably a great job for people who conceive of politics as a contact sport. If you’re a serious person with a genuine desire to make the world a better place, however, the White House can probably often feel like a gilded cage. I suspect being the FLOTUS is also no walk in the park for someone who would rather be living the everyday life of a Target Shopper instead of a fashion icon.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still PISSED. So much so that I am actually looking forward to a phone call from Obama 2012 so I can tell them exactly why I will not be knocking on the doors of New Hampshire voters or sending any money, but my anger is less personal. I suspect that problem is not the President, but instead the presidency. I only wish Obama had decided to embrace the political landscape he inherited and, instead of attempting (and failing) to create bi-partisanship, focused his energy on achieving the policy goals he established during his 2008 campaign.