When we think of the duties of the first lady, many, including myself, jump to the conclusion that she is just the woman supporting her husband during his presidential campaign and supports him even more once he’s in office during his term. There are many thoughts of what a first lady is supposed to do and what she does do while her husband is busy running the country. Basically, what defines an “ideal” first lady?
[aparna2] Curious about how past first ladies have acted while their husbands were president, I went to the White House web site and read up on some biographies of first ladies that I think are more well known than others. My first assumption before even reading about them was that they were only there to “stand by their men”.
For the most part, I was right. I discovered that although many of the women were involved with charities, promoting literacy, and volunteering to third-world countries, no matter what, they all said that their initial job was to support their husband and always be there for them through thick and thin. They all had this aura about being the “nation’s mother” and someone we could all turn to when we had our down-days. Jackie Kennedy was very involved with decorating the White House and picking out the China that would be used during big dinner parties, while although Nancy Reagan focused on the “Just Say No” campaign, she also said that a woman’s real happiness and real fulfillment came from within the home with her husband and children.
Then along came a woman named Hilary Rodham Clinton who already was involved with Arkansas’s government as first lady for twelve years. In my opinion, she is the only first lady so far that seemed to start her own political means and ways and because of her success, she became one of the first women to be elected in New York into the U.S. Senate. Not being afraid of doing her own thing, I think she succeeded as someone strong to stand by Bill Clinton. So why couldn’t more women have this independent standing? True, that most were first ladies living before the women’s liberation, but did they still need to be the mom that had the fresh chocolate chip cookies waiting on the table after a hard day?
Is it not true that whenever you see a first lady on television, regardless if it’s before or after an election, she seems to blend into the crowd? Although the candidates are most important, you always see the first lady sitting off to the side smiling proudly and adoringly at her husband who is busy speaking to the public. I’m not saying that they need to wear bright red blazers and pant suits or have electric blue hair, but I think they should stand out, stand on stage next to their husbands and be seen for who they are: the first lady of the United States, not as just the president’s wife.
I’m not going to define what I think is the ideal first lady because I honestly don’t know. I know many people have their opinions, but I’m throwing the idea out there that maybe the first ladies need to stand out more and make their mark a little more deeply engraved in our history.
Getting past the idea that they aren’t our “nation’s mother”, maybe we’ll have our first woman president. When and if that ever happens, what would a woman do to our country? How would she run things if she could? Many would argue that it was really Hilary Clinton running our country when her husband was in office because of all the different organizations and negotiations she participated in, and maybe that’s why she’s such a successful senator in our country. Would things change if we had our first, first gentleman? Would the media and public just feast off the fact that his image could be shattered since his wife is running the country?
In history, it was considered one of the biggest steps for our country to allow women to vote because it put men and women on an equal page for that one American right. I read an article by Eleanor Smeal of Ms. Magazine where she said that the gender gap has become a big issue for our country and that in 2000, there were more women voters who favored Gore, and more women voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Many women I’ve spoken to are pro-choice and therefore their vote goes directly to the man who supports them on this issue.
In short, I’m not sure when we will have a woman president. I just hope that when women vote and there happens to be a woman in the presidential candidacy, that she will be voted for based on her platform and goals to help our country, not because she is the first woman to make the “final cut.”
Whoever ends up being president this election, the first lady needs to be more liberal with her standing and shouldn’t see herself as just the wife of her husband and the wife of the president. Yes, stand by your man, but stand by him as his equal and stand by him with pride because you are just as important to this country as he is.

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