First Lady Michelle Obama and predecessor Laura Bush combined their star power to draw attention on Tuesday to efforts to improve women’s health and welfare in east Africa.
Michelle Obama is visiting Tanzania on the last day of President Barack Obama’s eight-day tour of Africa. She helped Laura Bush open a summit of the wives of African leaders, saying Africa was “at the hub of global development.” The summit aims to promote women’s well-being on the continent.
In Tanzania, Michelle Obama joked about the “prison-like elements” of being first lady. “But it’s a really nice prison,” she said. “You can’t complain,” the Weekly Standard reported.
Sitting next to former first lady Bush, Michelle Obama said that wives of presidents “have probably the best job in the world, because while our husbands … have to react and respond to crises on a minute-to-minute basis, we got to work on what we’re passionate about. … I have just found it a very freeing and liberating opportunity. … [Laughing] There are prison-like elements, but it’s a really nice prison. You can’t complain. There are confining elements. …
“While people are sorting through our shoes and our hair … whether we cut it or not … we take our bangs and we stand in front of important things the world needs to see,” Obama added. “And eventually people stop looking at the bangs, and start looking at the things we’re standing in front of. That’s the power of our role.”
But Obama also expressed some sorrow at how fleeting her role would be.
“You get your teeth into the issues, and it’s time to go,” she said. “We are not going to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in eight years. … There is still power in the position as a former first lady. … We are always role models, particularly in the eyes of young girls. … There are girls around the world … watching us for decades to come,” she said.
The unusual Obama-Bush combination spotlights U.S. interest in the continent and the importance of Africa to the legacy of the president and his predecessor George W. Bush.
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