'It's time... eight years is enough': Michelle Obama reflects on time in White House as she appears on Vogue for third time
Published 12/11/2016 | 14:49
Michelle Obama says "it's time".
After eight years in the White House, the First Lady will be leaving the West Wing in January as one of the most popular presidential spouses America has seen.
Appearing on the cover of Vogue for the third time in seven years, Mrs Obama said she would miss waking up to the view of the South Lawn and the Washington Monument.
"But on the flip side . . . it’s time," she told the magazine in a wide-ranging interview. "I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It’s enough. Because it’s important to have one foot in reality when you have access to this kind of power. The nature of living in the White House is isolating.”
The 52-year-old has earned widespread praise for her self-described role as "mom-in-chief", particularly from her husband.
"Michelle never asked to be First Lady,” President Barack Obama told the magazine. “Like a lot of political spouses, the role was thrust upon her. But I always knew she’d be incredible at it, and put her own unique stamp on the job. That’s because who you see is who she is - the brilliant, funny, generous woman who, for whatever reason, agreed to marry me.
"I think people gravitate to her because they see themselves in her - a dedicated mom, a good friend, and someone who’s not afraid to poke a little fun at herself from time to time.”
As First Lady, Mrs Obama campaigned for healthy eating, launched two education initiatives, became a style icon, turned herself into the First Lady of Popular Culture with appearances on TV shows, such as singing karaoke with James Corden, and stole the show on the Hillary Clinton campaign trail.
She did, the mother-of-two notes, whatever she wanted.
“Everything we do is by choice,” she said. “I could have spent eight years doing anything, and at some level, it would have been fine. I could have focused on flowers. I could have focused on decor. I could have focused on entertainment. Because any First Lady, rightfully, gets to define her role. There’s no legislative authority; you’re not elected. And that’s a wonderful gift of freedom.”
Her barmstorming speech at the Democratic National Convention and an emotional attack on Donald Trump in support of Mrs Clinton has spurred calls for her to run for president, especially in the wake of the business tycoon's election victory on Tuesday.
Could she follow Mrs Clinton's footsteps in trying to return to the White House as president after being First Lady? “Absolutely not,” Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president and a friend of the Obamas, told the magazine.
Ms Jarrett argued that her speeches connected because she was not a politician and never will be. “Nobody questions her motives," she said. "Everybody knows exactly why she’s doing what she’s doing. There are no hidden agendas. She’s pure in mission, honest, kind, empathetic."
So if her future is not in politics, what lies ahead for Mrs Obama outside the White House?
“I will take the same approach leaving as I did coming in,” she said. “I won’t know until I’m there. I’ve never been the former First Lady of the United States of America before.
"But I will always be engaged in some way in public service and public life. The minute I left my corporate-law firm to work for the city, I never looked back."