Michelle Obama hopes to put spotlight on her to good use

Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:23pm EST
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By Deborah Charles

CHICAGO (Reuters) - First lady Michelle Obama knows she has star power, and she has used it for four years to champion her causes of fighting childhood obesity and helping military families.

But now that she has successfully made it through the last political campaign for her husband, President Barack Obama, the first lady is also having fun with her popularity - raising questions over whether she has gone too far in becoming a pop culture icon.

Her surprise appearance at the Academy Awards - where she was beamed in from the White House dressed in a sparkling evening gown to announce the Best Picture award - provided ammunition for her critics.

The first lady has enjoyed a steady positive approval rating over the past four years, even at times when her husband sank in the polls.

But the Oscar appearance - coming on the heels of the "mom dance" that she did with late night comedian Jimmy Fallon, which quickly went viral on the Internet - sparked a debate on the proper role of a first lady.

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, who often writes about minority issues, described Obama's Oscar appearance as "unbecoming frivolity" and urged the first lady to "raise her game" and take up a more expanded role in the second term championing more serious causes.

"Enough with the broccoli and Brussels sprouts," Milloy wrote this week in the Washington Post. "Where is that intellectually gifted Princeton graduate, the Harvard-educated lawyer and mentor to the man who would become the first African American president of the United States?"

His column sparked hundreds of comments, ranging from people who thought Obama was doing a great job raising awareness about the childhood obesity problem to others who thought she was trying too hard to be like a Hollywood star.   Continued...

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama dances on stage with school children during an event to bring physical activity back to schools, hosted by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in Chicago, Illinois, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes