Michelle Obama to speak at college graduations in  swing states of North Carolina, Virginia

Michelle Obama’s swing state speaking tour will kick off with college commencements. The White House announced Wednesday that the First Lady has chosen to speak at Virginia Tech and North Carolina A&T — two crucial battleground states her husband needs to win to increase his chances of re-election. The first commencement address will take place at Virginia Tech on May 11. The White House said Obama was inspired by the school’s resilience following the horrific 2007 campus shootings. The next day, she’ll head to North Carolina to speak at A&T, a historically black college in Greensboro. Obama said in a statement she chose the school because its “been instrumental in educating generations of African-Americans.” President Obama won both states in 2008, barely beating Sen. John McCain in North Carolina 50% to 49%. In Virginia, he won 53% to 47%. On June 17, Michelle Obama will also address college seniors at Oregon State University, where the student body has been recognized for its efforts to promote healthy eating — a cause the First Lady has championed. Her brother, Craig Robinson, is also the coach of the men’s basketball team there. This isn’t the first time she has spoken at other college graduation ceremonies during her husband’s presidency. Last year she addressed students at at Spelman College in Atlanta and the University of Northern Iowa. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Obama-Biden bond among strongest in White House history

When Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2005, the freshman senator from Illinois took his place in the very last seat on the far end of the dais of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was the most junior Democrat on a panel on which Joe Biden had served as chairman or ranking Democrat for more than a decade. The men were a generation apart, at least.Biden, who entered the Senate when Obama was in junior high school, saw in Obama a fast learner but still viewed him mostly as an understudy.The roles reversed when the upstart Obama captured the prize that Biden has coveted much of his professional life and invited the elder statesman to be a partner in his presidency.By the end of their two terms in the White House, President Obama and Vice President Biden had forged a professional relationship and a personal bond that is deeper and stronger than any president and vice president in the modern era. They have agreed on almost every major policy issue in their eight years together, and when there has been disagreement, they managed to keep their disputes quietly behind the scenes.Biden, notorious for speaking too much and revealing too much, has made his share of mistakes in that regard, but most were in the Washington tradition of telling the truth at the inappropriate time – such as his 2012 embrace of gay marriage before Obama made his own similar announcement. The vice president chafed at the way some of Obama's senior advisers threw their support behind Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign long before Biden made his own decision, and someone even leaked that during the 2012 reelection campaign, advisers polled whether replacing Biden with Clinton would give Obama a boost.But the president never considered abandoning Biden, and throughout the 2016 primary campaign, he stayed publicly neutral. When it came time in October 2015 for Biden to announce that his days of running for office were done, Obama stood at his side in the Rose Garden. The president Continue Reading

A political career for Michelle Obama? Probably not.

There are many ways to describe Michelle Obama: wife, mother, first lady and recently powerful political orator. But there is one phrase at which she continues to balk  – future president.Her stirring speeches on the campaign trail for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton refueled rumors that Obama, more adept at harnessing a crowd's emotions than Clinton herself, would seek a life in politics. But the former first lady has said repeatedly she's not interested in politics, despite the continual clamor of fans asking whether she will make a 2020 presidential run.“I will not run for president. No, no, not gonna do it,” Obama said over disappointed groans from the crowd at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas last year.Her husband too has fielded the question, saying last year at a town hall in Baton Rouge "There are three things that are certain in life: Death, taxes and Michelle is not running for president." PREVIOUSLY: White House confirms Obamas to make Palm Springs first stop after inauguration The idea of a first lady “having a real job” after leaving the White House is a fairly recent phenomenon, said John Pitney Jr., a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College. But at age 53, Obama is relatively young and likely to have many working years ahead of her.Pitney said if she wanted to pursue a career in politics, “the door would be wide open.” But that doesn't necessarily mean the presidency. The question instead is: What would she run for and in what state?“As Hillary Clinton proved, it’s not hard to establish residency in a state in which you have no real roots. So, yeah, if she wanted to run in California they could rent a condo in Rancho Cucamonga and establish residency,” Pitney said.Rumors have swirled for years that the Obamas are looking to purchase – or already have purchased – property in Thunderbird Heights in Rancho Mirage where they’ve Continue Reading

Michelle Obama’s weekend plans remain a mystery

First Lady Michelle Obama will leave behind stormy 84-degree Washington, D.C. for 106 degrees this weekend and the lure of swimming pools, family time and desert relaxation on Father's Day weekend, joining her husband on a trip to Palm Springs.Michelle has not been back to the Coachella Valley since attending former first lady Betty Ford's funeral in Palm Desert in 2011, flanked by other women who've held the unpaid yet prominent national role. The official visit didn't allow much time for anything else in the desert. She did not accompany President Obama on his two trips to the Annenbergs' former Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage over the past year to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Jordanian King Abdullah II.But she'll visit the presidents' playground starting Friday this weekend, giving her the chance to experience local flavors and culture. It is not known if their daughters will join them in the desert."Clearly going to Palm Springs is a very nice place to spend a weekend as a family," said Anita McBride, former chief-of-staff for former first lady Laura Bush and executive-in-residence for the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington D.C. "I'm sure she'd partake in things one would normally do, which are food and sunshine, relaxation and beauty of the surroundings. Beyond that, it's unclear if there's some other specific reason or event bringing her there."The first lady does not appear to have any official engagements in the Coachella Valley.And normally formal commitments would already be released ahead of the weekend visit, though it's too soon to rule that out, McBride said Monday.While in the White House, Michelle has embraced the fight against childhood obesity, forming the "Let's Move!" campaign in 2010 to end the epidemic in a generation, pushing for healthier lunches in school cafeterias and physical activity and exercise. The program's goals align closely with a similar focus in the valley in Continue Reading

Obamas welcome White House Christmas tree in day-after-Thanksgiving tradition

WASHINGTON — It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House. Michelle Obama continued a decades-old tradition the day after Thanksgiving as she, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Bo, the family dog, witnessed the arrival of an 18-and-a-half-foot balsam fir tree from Wisconsin, hauled up the driveway by horse-drawn wagon and delivered to their doorstep Friday. The Obamas walked around the carriage and inspected the tree before giving it a thumbs-up. But that was merely a formality; White House staffers traveled to Wisconsin last month and picked out that tree. The fir is headed for the oval-shaped Blue Room, where it will become the centerpiece of the White House Christmas decorations. It will be decorated to honor Blue Star families, those with a loved one who has served or currently is serving in the armed forces. The nearly 19-foot tall balsam fir tree is from Schroeder's Forevergreens in Wisconsin. (Elisa Miller for New York Daily News) The tree came from Schroeder's Forevergreens near Neshkoro, Wis., owned by Tom and Sue Schroeder. It's the first time one of their trees has made it to the White House. The couple earned the honor after winning a national contest — on their fourth try — sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association. "It's just very thrilling," Sue Schroeder said in an interview after leaving behind the tree, which took 20 years to grow. Having the tree at the White House is a "highlight of our Christmas," she said, but on Saturday she and her husband expect to be back in their blue jeans, working at their retail lot and serving customers. "That is also a very important part of Christmas to us," Sue Schroeder said. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia inspect the tree before giving it a thumbs-up. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images) During the next several days at the White House, dozens of volunteers from across the country will join White House staffers for a marathon of tree trimming, wreath hanging and Continue Reading

First Lady Michelle Obama to write book about White House garden; all proceeds to go to charity

There's a new author in the White House: Michelle Obama.Crown Publishing Group for a book about the garden she started on the South Lawn of the White House and the benefits of healthy eating. The book, currently untitled, is scheduled to come out in April 2012. Obama received no advance and will donate all proceeds to a charity or charities to be determined.The Associated Press. "So we wanted to share the story with the rest of the nation and perhaps with the rest of the world, because we get so many questions about the garden: How did we do it? Why did we do it? How do I do this in my own home or community?"Hillary Clinton had a best-seller with "It Takes a Village," about the importance of community in raising children; and Laura Bush collaborated with daughter Jenna on a picture book about a reluctant reader, the popular "Read All About It!" This is Michelle Obama's first book and she said she had begun working on it. "I don't know why I'm not really nervous about it. Maybe I don't know enough to be nervous yet," she said.President Obama has written two best-sellers, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope," and is widely regarded as among the most literary presidents. Both books sold in the millions.Random House Inc., also publishes President Obama and the deal was negotiated by his literary representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko among contemporary artists to plaster Obama’s White House walls

WASHINGTON — You can't see it, but there's a quiet cultural revolution under way at the White House. The Obamas are decorating their private spaces with more modern and abstract artwork than has ever hung on the White House walls. New pieces by contemporary African-American and Native American artists are on display. Bold colors, odd shapes, squiggly lines have arrived. So, too, have some obscure artifacts, such as patent models for a gear cutter and a steamboat paddlewheel, that now sit in the Oval Office. Works by big names from the modern art world — Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko — are rubbing shoulders with lesser-known artists such as Alma Thomas, an African-American abstract painter of the 1960s and 1970s. Thomas' "Watusi (Hard Edge)" now hangs in the East Wing, where Michelle Obama has her offices. The acrylic on canvas, on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, shows a jumble of geometric shapes in bright reds, blues and greens. Glenn Ligon's "Black Like Me No. 2," a Hirshhorn loan now hanging in the first family's living quarters, is a "text painting" that reproduces words from the 1961 book "Black Like Me," a nonfiction account by a white man who disguised himself as a black man and traveled through the South. Ligon, a black artist from Brooklyn in New York, said in an interview that the painting's theme fits with President Barack Obama's efforts to create a dialogue between the races. "It's a really important part of what he's about and symbolically what he's done," Ligon said, adding that it was "intensely flattering" for the Obamas to want his painting to hang in their private spaces. The Obamas got to work selecting new artwork for the White House even before the inauguration and had the first pieces installed on Day One. Other pieces have arrived only in recent weeks. And there's a Rothko piece — "No. 17 (or) No. 15" — in limbo; they haven't quite decided what to do with it. Working with Continue Reading

First Lady Michelle Obama’s family tree traces road from slavery to White House: report

It's a story stretching across five generations that traces a family's path from slavery to the White House. President Obama's rise to the nation's top political office marked a historic moment for African-Americans but now, newly discovered genealogical records connecting Michelle Obama's family tree directly to a former slave make the first couple's journey even more symbolic. A report in the New York Times Thursday details Michelle Obama's ancestry, tracing back through five generations to a young slave girl named Melvinia Shields – identified by genealogist Megan Smolenyak as the First Lady's great-great-great grandmother. Melvinia lived as a slave in South Carolina in the 1850s, and when her master died was sent to Georgia where she bore a son to a white man. That biracial child, Dolphus Shields, was Michelle Obama's great-great grandfather. Smolenyak followed Michelle's family line through the next three generations as various descendants settled in Alabama and finally Chicago – a history of migration from slavery to life in the North that is shared by many African-American families. The Times pieced together Michelle Obama's ancestral map using 19th century marriage licenses, photographs, census records – and also the memories of elderly people who knew her family. "She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are," historian Edward Ball told the Times. "We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America ... We've all mingled, and we have done so for generations," Ball said.   Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Michelle Obama warns not to vote for ‘cute’ in perceived dig at Sarah Palin

Michelle Obama's latest campaign advice: Don't vote for someone because "she's cute.""People shouldn't make a decision this time based on 'I like that guy' or 'she's cute,'" Obama said during a women's forum in North Carolina Thursday. As the crowd burst into applause, Obama immediately offered a clarification, lest anyone presume she was referring to GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. "I'm talking about me," Obama insisted before the applause subsided. But Michelle Obama is not on the ballot, and Palin is the only "she" in the hotly contested White House race. Obama did not directly cite Palin during her remarks. The crowd, though, certainly had the Alaska governor on its mind, chanting "No Palin" before the event started. A spokesman for McCain-Palin declined to comment on Obama's comments. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Change in the White House: The Obamas’ style could make them the 21st century Kennedys

Washington: staid, stuffy and mired in political and social traditions. All that's about to change when the Obamas hit town. And the White House - that wedding cake of a residence that has remained virtually unchanged since the Kennedys moved in and renovated more than 40 years ago - will (hopefully) never be the same again. RELATED: WHO SHOULD COME TO OBAMA'S FIRST WHITE HOUSE DINNER PARTYBarack and Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will bring a fresh, independent and - dare we say it - low-key style of living to the house that democracy built. If the candid preacceptance-speech photos of the nation's newest First Family that were posted Friday on Flickr.com are any indication, the Obamas will set new standards in approachability and access. Suddenly there's a feeling that the public will be welcomed inside the White House in a way not seen since Jacqueline Kennedy famously gave the nation a televised tour back in 1962. Like the Kennedys, the Obamas bring with them a youthful approach to living. Malia and Sasha will also be the youngest inhabitants since John-John and Caroline ran about the Oval Office under the watchful eye of Dad. RELATED: DEMOCRATS FIND CONNECTION WITH 'HIP-HOP GENERATION'Like the groundbreaking strategies employed during his campaign (see the following page), Barack Obama does things his way and is not afraid to break the rules. Then there's Michelle, always supportive of her husband but an independent figure in her own right: intelligent, stylish and down-to-earth as a political wife gets, qualities that will have a huge effect on life at the White House. Though many of the rooms will remain exactly the way they are (don't expect an overhaul of the Lincoln Bedroom), the living quarters on the second and third floors will now be Chez Obama. According to Claire Whitcomb, author of "Real Life at the White House: 200 Years of Daily Life at America's Most Famous Residence," the Obamas will have Continue Reading