Barack and Michelle Obama: The Full Interview
The Power of Women
LHJ: Upstairs at the press conference, you were introduced as a power couple. Ladies' Home Journal's motto is "Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman."
Could you each comment on what that phrase means to you?
Michelle Obama: Well, for me, I think of all the things that women are capable of balancing -- even starting as young children. We have two daughters, and when I think about the complexity and level of detail of their thought and their emotional empathy -- people do note that there is a difference in girls in that respect. And I think that begins to arm us with the tools to be able to juggle all that we have to juggle. Those skills turn out to be pretty amazing resources that can and should be harnessed in society for the benefit of many. So for me, I think about our ability to balance, and to structure, and to move and to coordinate in ways that I don't think men can do. [They both laugh.]
LHJ: Senator, does this call for a rebuttal?
Barack Obama: No, no, no. Being married to Michelle, and having these tall, beautiful, strong-willed girls in my house, never allows me to underestimate women. But also, I was raised by a single mom, and my grandparents. And my grandmother was a remarkable woman. When my grandfather was off in World War II, she worked as a Rosie the Riveter, essentially -- while she was raising my mother. When they moved to Hawaii, she got a job as a secretary, and with never more than a high school education, ended up being the first woman vice president of a bank in Hawaii. She was the primary breadwinner for the family for a pretty long time. And so I've been raised understanding that women are able to do everything that men can do, and some things that men can't do.
Part of it is also my mother's profession. By the time she was 40, her main work was around women's development issues internationally. I remember very early on her explaining that the best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it's educating its girls, if women have equal rights -- that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they're going to fall behind. I apply that idea when I think about what we need to do here in the United States as well. And that's why it's so important for me to make sure that my policies are speaking to the needs and concerns of women.
LHJ: We've seen women be a powerful voting bloc in this campaign. Do you both feel that the women's vote, per se, is critical? Or is this election now not the male vote or female vote, but more about policy, geography, and party?