05/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Does the World Worship Michelle?

The reason that Michelle Obama's approval ratings are in the 70s; the reason she is so popular that she joins the ranks of superstars who need only a first name -- former First Lady Laura Bush needed both names in most quarters and Hillary needed only one during her husband's presidency, but that name evoked more scary than positive images -- is because Michelle is not a phony.

When she teared up during a talk to mostly minority school girls in North London and told them that by any objective standard she should not be standing before them as the First Lady of the United States, that she should not have her double Ivy League education, not even the most rabid Obama-haters could say that moment resembled a Bill Clinton-bite-his-lower-lip routine.

Michelle is from a working class family; her father really did tend to the Chicago's boilers; her father really did need to work for the Daley machine as a precinct captain to get his promotions; neither parent went to college, on her father's side, not too many generations back her forbears slaved -- as slaves -- on the master's rice plantation in South Carolina. I spent several months writing a profile of Michelle for Chicago Magazine and on the issue of her background it all checked out.

Think of another top member of the Obama team -- the man who tells everyone he's just Joe and who reacted to a former Senate colleague who used the honorific "Vice President" with the words, "give me a fucking break" -- Joe Biden, whose father had money, then lost it, and eventually sold real estate and managed a car dealership. Biden blew his best shot at winning his party's nomination for president in 1988 by claiming in August, 1987, that his ancestors had worked the coal mines in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He stole the story -- hook, line and paragraph -- from a passionate speech delivered by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock, whose forbears had actually worked in the coalmines.

Michelle is just getting started; she will play a huge role in her husband's administration and it will be about much more than fashion -- although what woman didn't smile when Michelle told New York Times reporter Marian Burros, "He's always asking: 'Is that new? I haven't seen that before'"?

"It's like, Why don't you mind your own business? Solve world hunger. Get out of my closet." (When I was writing about Michelle, her friends told me that if there's one thing Barack disliked more than his daughters watching television, it was shopping.)

All Michelle needs to do to truly affect the national agenda and conversation is never, ever lose sight of her roots. So far, so good.