Michelle Obama's visit made us nostalgic for a more sane time I Jenice Armstrong

Michelle Obama will speak at the keynote luncheon at the 14th annual Pa. Conference for Women Tuesday at the Convention Center.


Michelle “when-they-go-low-we-go-high” Obama came to Philadelphia on Tuesday oozing class just as she always did.

Boy it felt good seeing her again.

The former first lady looked especially svelte, as if she’d really been going hard on her workouts since stepping aside as the nation’s first African American in the position. Those shapely arms of hers were partially covered in a short-sleeved, pin-striped, A-line dress. And no, she didn’t have on impossibly high stilettos — just ankle-strap pumps with a heel height similar to shoes worn by many of the professional women in attendance.

For nearly an hour, during a luncheon at the Convention Center it felt as if the last nine months had just been a bad dream. It was as if we’d stepped back to a more sane time in American history when the president didn’t refer to  professional athletes as sons of b—– and didn’t call for them to be fired or suspended for not standing during the national anthem. There were no awkward “warmest  condolences” tweeted to survivors suffering horrific pain and loss after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

There were no insulting references to “politically motivated ingrates” questioning hurricane disaster relief in Puerto Rico; no insulting nicknames hurled at the leader of North Korea; no calls for a TV network to fire a reporter for exercising her First Amendment rights on Twitter; no calls for repealing Obamacare with nary a thought for what would happen to the millions who stand to lose coverage.


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Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Screenwriter, director and producer Shonda Rhimes speak on stage during Pennsylvania Conference For Women 2017 at Pennsylvania Convention Center Tuesday. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women)

To Obama’s credit, she stuck with tradition and never once criticized President Trump by name. However, she pointed out how while campaigning she was constantly reminded of how different the standards had been for them and how “the bar just kept moving [up]. … You’d meet it and then the bar would  change. We’re seeing that right now, quite frankly.”

“I want women to watch this. I want you all to pay attention because this is what happens when we don’t stand up,” Obama  said.

Some of the women glanced around the room at that. I shrugged and looked back down at my notebook.

More than half of white women — 53 percent — voted for Donald Trump in 2016, ignoring the former first lady’s numerous pleas from the campaign trail to elect Hillary Clinton as the nation’s first female president. An estimated 94 percent of African American women listened and voted accordingly.

Attendees applauded when Obama announced she had no plans to merely disappear the way so many other first ladies do.

“Definitely at my age and Barack’s age, we’re not going to stop,” Obama said, adding she’s working on the presidential library among other projects.

“I keep telling Barack, ‘Nobody’s going to come to hear about his policies.’ They’re going to come to see my dresses,” she joked.  “The Obama presidential library, the Obama presidential center, will be the base from which we will develop the next set of policies and programs.”

Next month, there are plans for focus groups and meetings to pull things together. Key issues will center around education, girls’ leadership and training — not just for young people here but around the world.

“Barack and I want to be involved in developing the next generation of leaders,” said Obama, who used to refer to herself as Mom-in-Chief. “We don’t want to be the folks that don’t go away and don’t give up our seats and make sure that other young people are being brought up and supported and have the resources to take our places.”

TV mogul Shonda Rhimes, who interviewed Obama on stage,  surprised the first lady with a videotaped message from a relaxed-looking Barack wishing Michelle a happy 25th wedding anniversary. The couple married in Chicago in 1992 after meeting while working at a law firm. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

“It is truly the best decision that I ever made to be persistent enough in asking you out for a date,” Barack said on giant screens set up in the exhibit hall. “I hope you feel the same way.”

He then went on to share just how much he loved his wife.

We all swooned.

Had Barack been there in the flesh and reached for Michelle’s hand, I know she wouldn’t have slapped it away.