By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS
Last week I took my car in for winterization and as usual I ended up spending a considerable amount of time talking with my mechanic, who, by the way, is one of the best in town. We always talk, with great vigor, about the issues of the day. I had not seen him in awhile so on this day we had tons of stuff to catch up on and solve. Of course we talked about the election of President-elect Obama; he, like me, still finds it hard to believe what has happened. We talked about the economy and how dismal the forecast looks. I said there is no way in the world that I would want to be in Mr. Obama's shoes. He agreed. But optimistically we both look to this man to lead us out of this quagmire.
After we did the heavy stuff, I was flabbergasted when my mechanic, out of the clear blue, asked me: "And what was that Michelle had on the night he won the presidency"? Now mind you, this is a man's man talking about the fashion choices of the first-lady-to-be. My mechanic had become a fashionista -- who would have known! I think at this point I realized we have a real interest not only in Barack Obama, but Michelle as well, maybe nothing like we have seen since the days of Jackie Kennedy. I am convinced that, even though the election had been filled with all kind of rancor, this family will the be pride of the nation. When my mechanic notices the dress Mrs. Obama wears, it bodes well for a real concern for the good will of this young family who is destined to issue in a new Camelot.
Michelle will have the attention of the world. She will bring an honor to young women, especially black women, unlike anything we have seen. She will redefine what it means to be first lady. There will be critiques for sure, but she still will be the new "she-ro" image and role model to many a young black girl and white girl too, looking for someone to look up to and be like.
Already we see her confidence, a little of her poise and grace. Throughout the campaign we all had seen her intellect. She is highly educated, straightforward, directed and articulate -- and watching her TV appearances on "The View" and "Ellen" we know she is full of personality and charisma. But what keeps coming across very clearly is her total dedication to her husband, her girls and their home. She will not have to compete with the likes of the beautiful Halle Berry, or the curvaceous Beyonce, Alicia Keys or even the charismatic Oprah. She appears to be totally comfortable in her own skin. She is always Michelle O.
And as far as that little Narciso Rodriquez red-and-black number she wore to the Chicago election party, yes it was a little avant garde and showy with a tinge of runway -- and it was definitely risky -- but what about that cute Donna Ricco black-and-white print that she wore on "The View," or the Maria Pinto ensemble she wore on Letterman. And the elegant knock out red sheath that she wore during her visit to the White House. It was to die for. I can assure you that President Bush will never forget it either. You could see the gaze in his eyes as she made that grand entrance, stepping out of the black limo on the arms of her man, President-elect Obama. This woman has an impeccable sense of style that is pragmatic and elegant -- not quite minimalist, but yet slightly understated. She is the new Mrs. O. The piece I liked the most was that black shirt dress that she wore that day in San Antonio during the campaign. It epitomized and accentuated the body, mind and soul of black woman everywhere.
This high-powered African American woman is about to show us a different type of black woman. She is a Harvard-trained, Princeton-educated lawyer who made six figures. She is accomplished in her own right separate from her husband. Just her mere visual presence has already made an impact. The aspiration of all African-American women has already been heightened. Indeed all American women are inspired.
Everything about her speaks of a thoroughly modern, urbane, post-feminist woman who is clever, independent, attractive and like her husband pragmatic in her sensibilities. While she is a bit sassy, it is tempered by a mixture of her no-nonsensical temperament and demeanor. I can see a lot of little girls being named Michelle in the next eight years.
So move over Oprah, Diahann Carroll, Maxine Waters, Janet Cohen, B. Smith, Phylicia Rashad and Diana Ross, because Madame Michelle O has emerged. Like a thermostat she is about to regulate the atmosphere.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou in her poem, "Phenomenal Woman," She is woman, phenomenally.