Tuesday 6 December 2016

Michelle Obama: I won't ever run for president because of my girls

First lady, speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Texas, says she can have more impact outside politics

Harriet Alexander

Published 17/03/2016 | 11:33

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has disappointed her supporters by declaring that she is not going to follow in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps, and has no intention of running for the presidency.

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Mrs Obama has enjoyed almost record approval ratings throughout her husband’s eight years in office.

Among Americans, 79 per cent said when asked in 2014 that they approved of the way she is handling the job of first lady. Only eight per cent disapproved.

But, speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Texas on Wednesday, Mrs Obama said she would not seek to run the White House herself.

"No, no. Not going to do it," she told the convention centre in Austin, during a question session with rappers Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott to talk about girls' education.

She mentioned her teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha, as two of the main reasons.

"The daughters of a president. Just think about it. Come on, young people. Not so easy," she said.

"They've handled it with grace and with poise, but enough. Enough."

Mrs Obama's approval rating is not a new record for a president's wife, but it is not far short.

The highest approval rating for a first lady in modern times was Laura Bush's approval rating of 85 per cent in January 2005. Mrs Clinton scored an approval rating of 80 per cent in February 1999.

However, Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter and Pat Nixon never got as high as 60 per cent, and Eleanor Roosevelt – seen as perhaps the most loved of all first ladies – only reached 68 per cent, in February 1940.

Mrs Obama said she'll miss interacting with people as first lady — but has said she is looking forward to regaining her family’s privacy.

President Barack Obama opened the festival last week with a talk about civic engagement, becoming the first sitting president to attend SXSW in the festival's 30-year history. He weighed in on Apple's legal fight against the federal government over encryption, and told a crowd of tech enthusiasts that Republican politicians in Texas are not interested in making voting easier.

Mrs Obama steered clear of political topics.

She instead promoted her "Let Girls Learn" initiative, which encourages world leaders to provide education opportunities to an estimated 62 million girls globally who do not attend school.

She also said she does not plan to disappear from public view or slow down once she leaves the White House next year.

"Sometimes there's much more you can do outside the White House without the constraints, the lights and the cameras, and the partisanship," she said.

"There's a potential that my voice can be heard by people who can't hear me now because I'm Michelle Obama, the first lady. I want to be able to impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way to try to keep reaching people. I think I can do that just as well by not being president of the United States."

Reuters

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