First Influences: Michelle Obama's Role
It's a role with no paycheck and no specific duties, but the position of first lady of the United States commands great influence. Throughout history, first ladies have influenced policy, championed social causes and even set fashion trends.
Dolley Madison was the first to emerge as more than the woman behind the man when she risked her life to remove treasures from the burning White House during the War of 1812. Other strong first ladies have included Eleanor Roosevelt, who became the eyes and ears for a husband with polio and broke precedent by holding press conferences, traveling around the country and giving her opinions freely in a syndicated newspaper column. Jacqueline Kennedy was a national symbol of fashion and elegance who took on roles as decorator and historian with White House restoration projects. Nancy Reagan led the "Just Say No" campaign against drug use.
Michelle Obama also will likely wield significant influence as first lady. With her working-class roots and Ivy League education, Obama brings unique qualifications to the job. …