Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Melissa Carter Headshot

The Outdated Role of the First Lady

Posted: Updated:

During the recent Presidential Inauguration, I couldn't help but notice every time the Vice President's wife was announced she was referred to as Dr. Biden and not the Second Lady, as is her political title. Jill Biden is a college professor and the first Second Lady to hold a paying job while her husband is Vice President, so of course she was addressed at the Inauguration correctly. It just seemed her name outshined the term First Lady, and made me realize the current role of the First Lady is simply outdated.

Michelle Obama is also a Doctor...of Jurisprudence. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and met her husband at a law firm in Chicago where they both worked. It was at that firm Michelle was assigned as Mr. Obama's personal mentor. But many only know Mrs. Obama as an advocate of childhood activity, with good arms and a new set of bangs.

What don't we know about the accomplishments of other First Ladies? Laura Bush was an elementary school teacher and holds a Master's degree in Library Science. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first student Commencement speaker at Wellesley College, and received her law degree from Yale University. Both Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan attended Smith College. Reagan later became an actress under contract with MGM Studios, and served on the board of directors for the Screen Actors Guild.

Despite being highly-educated and professional women, our past few First Ladies have been regulated to the so-called traditional roles of a wife, and given one task to focus on as good PR for the White House. Before Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign, Mrs. Bush took on Childhood Education, Mrs. Clinton ambitiously took on reforming Health Care, Barbara Bush tackled on family literacy, and Mrs. Reagan famously told me as a teenager, "Don't Do Drugs." But have any of these efforts really made a difference, or do we simply see them as a way to keep the First Lady busy while her husband is off running the country?

Speaking of Hillary Clinton, I am relieved to see her rise from the "stand by her man" role to that of a celebrated Secretary of State, who had a legitimate shot at the Presidency. Rumors still surround a potential second run by her as Commander in Chief, and no one seems to question her right to be on the ballot with the other men. What a difference a few years makes in how we see her. Why couldn't we learn to appreciate her level of intelligence back when Bill was in office?

If we are serious about electing a female president in this country, then we should first look at how we limit the role of the First Lady. Maybe if we allowed these women the opportunity to utilize all of their skills, then the role could better reflect that of today's modern American woman.