Typically, once the President of the United States gives his State of the Union speech, the next day he embarks on some travel and appearances to bolster the points he made before Congress and the national television audience. It’s essentially big audience wholesale turned into smaller audience retail. Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Oscars broadcast Sunday—with an audience of 40 million—seems like her own version of the same formula, because this has been one very busy week for the First Lady. Is she running for something? Not that we’ve been told, but she’s been on the move all over the country, especially on behalf of her anti-obesity campaign.
Let’s break it down.
Sunday night was the formal White House dinner for the National Governors Conference, after which she slipped away, wearing a sparkling Naeem Khan gown, to the Diplomatic Reception Room, where she made a surprise appearance in the last minutes of the Oscars show. A crew of formally dressed military ushers, who most likely had worked as escorts at the dinner, stood behind her. She was introduced by Jack Nicholson, with whom she announced the Best Picture winner, Argo. She also used the moment to comment on the responsibility movies and movie stars have to young people.
There were questions and debate about her appearance. Why was she so dressed up? The Governors Dinner (which the TV audience didn’t know about). Should she maybe have changed into something less flashy? Maybe, but given the context of the dinner her attire made sense. Was it politically inappropriate for her to appear? People were divided, but then former President Bill Clinton took no heat for appearing on stage at the Golden Globes. Perhaps if she’d been at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles her words would have been less of an issue, but her obligation was to the dinner in Washington for the governors and their spouses. Bottom line: The Oscars are an all-over-the-place production at best, and she spoke not as an elected official but still a representative of her husband’s administration.
Monday, Mrs. Obama met again with the nation’s governors and their spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House to talk about one of her causes, Joining Forces, an initiative to support military families. She was joined by the Vice President’s wife, Jill Biden. At the start of her remarks, the First Lady alluded to the night before: “I hope you all got some rest after last night. We had a good time. If you noticed, I stayed up a little bit longer than I had anticipated, but it was well worth it.”
Tuesday Mrs. Obama took advantage of another national television platform. She appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America for an interview with host Robin Roberts. The interview was taped in New York the week before, but its timing on Tuesday carried with it the energy from the Sunday-night Oscars appearance and the Monday speech. While they discussed a range of topics, including Mrs. Obama’s bangs, the main purpose of the interview was to promote her principal cause, the Let’s Move campaign to encourage healthy eating, especially among children. The campaign begins its third year this week. Roberts was a strategic choice for the interview. She’s popular, she’s just returned to work after treatment for cancer, and GMA’s ratings have been steadily on the rise.
Wednesday was especially active. In the media, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by Mrs. Obama, her first as First Lady. The headline was: “The Business Case for Healthier Food Options.” In it she wrote, “Every day, great American companies are achieving greater and greater success by creating and selling healthy products. . . . They are showing what’s good for kids and good for family budgets can also be good for business.” As the column hit the news cycle, Mrs. Obama embarked on a two-day tour to further promote Let’s Move. The trip took her to Clinton, Mississippi; Chicago, Illinois; and Springfield, Missouri. Her stop in Clinton included a public appearance with celebrity cook, author, and television host Rachel Ray.
Thursday, the First Lady will be the featured guest on The Dr. Oz Show, hosted by Mehmet Oz, a cardio specialist, surgeon and popular television personality. Again, the purpose is to continue talking up Let’s Move. The show’s website says, “She discusses her views on obesity in America, and Dr. Oz asks exclusive questions you won’t see anywhere else.” She is expected to be joined by Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. A publicity still from the show shows her dancing, or at least jumping, with Oz and a group of children.
We don’t know what Friday holds, but at least the mention of TGIF allows us to circle back to last Friday night to what’s likely to be remembered as one of the First Lady’s most engaging, and lighthearted public appearances—and one of the most viral: on NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Together, both of them in bangs and long hair (hers real, his not), they introduced Fallon’s audience to “mom dancing.” Fallon was fetching in a peach cardigan and khakis; Mrs. O, also in a cardigan and pants, chose seafoam and navy as her colors. They did “the bump,” raised the roof, and tried the hands part of the Beyoncé hit “Single Ladies.”
Naturally, in his interview, Fallon wanted to know whether the First Lady had any plans to throw her hat in the ring as a running mate for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s a clever late-night talk show question. Were it to happen, one can only imagine the hue and cry that would ensue. For now, Mrs. Obama had only this to say: She has her eyes on the talk-show biz, as the replacement for Tonight show host Jay Leno.