Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Klaidman

Writing in The New York Times, columnist David Brooks lightly mocked the phenomenon as "O-phoria," the wall-to-wall coverage of Barack Obama's election--the insta-books, the quickie documentaries and, yes, the magazine covers. But it is hard to overstate the profound impact this election has had on the country. We in the media are, in some ways, giving voice to a collective expression of pride, a kind of national exclamation point, as if to say, "This really happened." The election of Obama hardly represents an eradication of racial prejudice; rather, it is an important milestone along a tortured road--an achievement in which all Americans, no matter whom they voted for, can take pride. But it is not a static event. The presence of an African-American family in the White House will force (allow?) all of us, no matter our skin color or ethnic background, to examine our biases and expectations.

That is why we chose to explore the meaning of Michelle Obama this week. All First Ladies face intense scrutiny. We hold them out as arbiters of our values and styles. Michelle is about to become the most visible African-American woman in the world. With this exposure, as Allison Samuels observes in her cover essay, Michelle has a real opportunity to alter the world's image of black women--and to knock down some ugly stereotypes. To succeed, Allison argues, Michelle will have to "engage in a delicate tap dance," to maintain the trust of the broad American public while staying true to her authentic self. It won't be easy. But with the combination of grace, strength and political skill she demonstrated during a grueling election campaign, she's off to a good start.

The burdens of the presidency are great during periods of national crisis. At these times we also ask more of our First Ladies. At the height of the Great Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt was a force in her own right, showing empathy for suffering Americans and throwing herself into recovery projects. …

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