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Michelle Obama, An Icon?

michelle obama iconThere are people who do not like Michelle Obama.

This is not a story for, or about, them. This is a story for, and about, people who like the first lady. And perhaps some of the reasons they like her.

In a recent poll by Pew Research Center, she is viewed favorably by 68 percent of all Americans. And more favorably than her husband, President Barack Obama. (The poll points out that conservative Republicans are not totally enamored of her, but even they like her better than her husband.)

Another just-released survey shows that the top-rated first ladies since World War II – among some 242 historians – are Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama. (Hillary Clinton was right behind Michelle Obama.) Reuters reports “current first lady Michelle Obama scored particularly high in the categories of ‘being her own woman’ and ‘value to the president’.”

When it comes to public opinion polls, observes USA Today, “The most consistent aspect of the Obama administration is first lady Michelle Obama.” And there are many Americans who just flat-out adore her.

Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who covered the first lady for The Washington Post in 2009-2010, observes: “Michelle Obama is a cult figure.”

Yes, icon.

She is a commanding presence in contemporary American popular culture.

So far during her tenure in the White House, people have shopped with First Lady of Fabulous tote bags; purchased Michelle Obama action figures; tuned in to YouTube to learn to dance like Michelle Obama and watched her interact with the Muppets time and again.

She is scheduled to be a guest Thursday night — along with a parade of other popcult paragons – during the first week of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. As first lady she has danced with Fallon and pushed-up with Ellen Degeneres. She has dunked and photobombed with NBA players.

The Michelle Obama Fan Club page on Facebook boasts tens of thousands of likes – and countless fawning comments. Photos of her — goofing off at the White House, posing as a just-turned 50 year old with a shiny new AARP card, and hanging out with the rest of the first family — elicit hundreds of giddy remarks.

From the moment she stepped onto the political stage, she has attracted a loyal and loving following. “Every first lady engenders a degree of adoration from the political base,” says Carl Sferrazza Anthony, consulting historian to the National First Ladies Library, “but only one so captured the fascination of the public that it became downright obsessive – Jackie Kennedy. And I think Michelle Obama may be coming up a bit towards that level.”

Read the full story by Linton Weeks at npr.org

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