Which Michelle Obama Will We Get When She Leaves the White House?
On Jan. 20, Michelle Obama will hand her home over to a man who rose to power in part by spreading lies about her husband and intends to pulverize much of his work. If presidential tradition and her own recent conduct are any guide, she will carry herself through inauguration morning with quiet calm and few hints of what she is really thinking. After Donald J. Trump recites the oath of office, a helicopter — no longer called Marine One, because the president will not be on board — will lift the Obamas into new lives.
1月20日，米歇尔·奥巴马(Michelle Obama)将把自己的家移交给一个一定程度上是靠散播关于她丈夫的谣言上台、还有意毁掉她丈夫的很多工作成果的男人。如果根据白宫的传统和她近日的言行来判断，那她应该会安静平和地度过举行就职典礼的那个上午，外人很难看出她心里在想什么。唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)宣誓就职后，一架直升机——它将不再叫做海军陆战队一号(Marine One)，由于飞机上没有总统——将载着奥巴马夫妇奔赴新生活。
Soon after, Michelle Obama will have a choice to make: Should she start — or rather, resume — speaking in public with her fuller voice?
When her husband became the 2008 Democratic nominee for president, Mrs. Obama edited herself. She had to, in the face of unceasing Republican attacks and then the challenge of being the first African-American first lady. Her statements were authentic but limited. She called herself the “mom in chief” and charmed late-night TV hosts in clips that exploded the next day on social media. Sometimes she spoke as much with her body as her voice, hula-hooping and hopscotching with children, turning appearances into marathon hugging sessions. She became a specialist in light jokes, as she demonstrated in September, when she went on a shopping expedition with Ellen DeGeneres to CVS. “Wine in a box! How does this work?” she asked in mock wonder.
She took on issues that were vital but hard to disagree with: She was pro-veteran, anti-childhood obesity. The approach worked brilliantly, protecting and elevating her, putting her as far above reproach as anyone in the mosh pit of American politics can hope to be. The less explicitly political she sounded, the more political influence she wielded, in convention speeches and other key moments.
This approach carried a price: It did not capture the true depth, originality and directness of Michelle Obama.
In a 2008 interview with The Times, she recalled her years of leading young people through sometimes-painful conversations about race, and made the case for being forthright. “I hate diversity workshops,” she said. “Real change comes from having enough comfort to be really honest and say something very uncomfortable,” she said.
Does Michelle Obama still believe that? In Donald Trump’s America, the hunger among Democrats for her to speak out will be enormous. But she knows better than anyone what that could cost her.
The Michelle Obama whom friends, family and aides know, whom many Chicagoans remember, is an incisive social critic, a lawyer who can drive home an argument, a source of fresh observations and pointed commentary. Long before she arrived at the White House, she had formed her own worldview, based on a life full of dramatic changes and contrasts.
When she attended Princeton, one of her roommates moved out rather than live with a black girl; one of her aunts, as it happened, worked as a maid in town. Her father was a Chicago water worker, part of the vast municipal work force. Later she worked in the mayor’s office, seeing city government from a much different height. Though she attended Harvard Law School and worked at a top firm, the job that seemed most formative involved public-service training for young people of disparate backgrounds: University of Chicago alumni alongside veterans of housing projects and gangs. She was influenced by others, including her brainy dreamer of a husband, but she fused these experiences into her own point of view and a distinctive voice: warm, skeptical, funny, blunt.
当她进入普林斯顿大学(Princeton)的时候，一名室友搬出了寝室，因为不愿意和黑人女孩住在一起；她的一个姑姑碰巧在城里当女佣。她父亲则是芝加哥的一名自来水工人，庞大的市政劳动大军中的一员。后来她曾任职于市长办公室，得以在一个极为不同的高度观察市政府。虽然她上了哈佛大学法学院(Harvard Law School)并进入了一家顶级律所，但与其性格形成有着最密切关联的工作，是对背景各不相同的年轻人进行公益培训，其中包括芝加哥大学(University of Chicago)的校友，以及住公屋的退伍军人和帮派人物。她受到了其他人，包括她那位有头脑的梦想家丈夫的影响，但她把这些经验融合起来，形成了属于自己的观点，以及一种独特的声音：温暖、多疑、有趣、坦率。
She questioned why power was locked up in political dynasties. When she worked at the University of Chicago, she pointed out the institution’s isolation amid the black South Side. A professor, Cathy Cohen, remembers Mrs. Obama telling her, “I grew up not far from here and the university never once reached out to me.” Old colleagues there, and in other jobs, too, say Mrs. Obama’s ability to talk frankly about difficult issues, like performing medical trials on poor black Chicagoans, was one of her strengths.
She had a penchant for defying what others expected her to say or think. In interviews, she shredded the script of the dutiful helpmeet. “What I notice about men, all men, is that their order is me, my family, God is in there somewhere, but me is first,” she told The Chicago Tribune in 2004 when her husband was running for United States Senate. “And for women, me is fourth, and that’s not healthy.”
她喜欢表达出乎别人预料的言论或想法。在采访中，她撕碎了关于尽职尽责的贤内助的脚本。“我注意到，在所有男人眼里，最重要的是自己，其次是家庭，上帝排在第几不一定，但自己总归是第一位的，”她在2004年告诉《芝加哥论坛报》(The Chicago Tribune)，当时她丈夫正竞选联邦参议员。“但女人一般将自己排在第四位，这是不健康的。”
In interviews, longtime aides to the Obamas said that she does not yet know exactly how she wants to sound as a former first lady, that she has been focused on tying up her eight years in the White House as smoothly as possible. Mrs. Obama will be 53 when she leaves the White House, and her goal, friends and aides say, is to look at her life afresh.
Some of those aides make a powerful case that even as Michelle Obama is likely to be spending time writing a memoir and giving speeches, she will be most effective if she sticks to the calibrated tone she has employed for her husband’s two terms. She has always admired Laura Bush’s restrained approach, they say. Mrs. Obama never longed for a particularly public life and does not relish the fray. Leaving the spotlight could be a relief, as it was for Mrs. Bush: “After nearly eight years of hypervigilance, of watching for the next danger or tragedy that might be coming, I could at last exhale; I could simply be,” she said of leaving the White House in her 2010 memoir.
Besides, the best way for Mrs. Obama to preserve her popularity and authority may be to hold back, to avoid jeopardizing what she has worked to build. Even when she is bathed in public admiration, she is the target of revolting attacks — a prominent Trump supporter recently insinuated she was a male ape — and speaking out more could provoke worse. As first lady, she used hints, invitations, art, sometimes even clothing to convey her viewpoint. If she mostly avoided controversial topics, her mere presence spoke volumes, and was there really any mistaking the fundamentals of what she believed?
On Friday morning, Mrs. Obama’s eyes glossed as she gave her final remarks as first lady. She exhorted young people to educate themselves and “build a country worthy of your boundless promise” — an uplifting message that included a subtle critique.
But others who know her predict that with time, Mrs. Obama will find a new voice. Both Obamas, two of the few unifying figures in a fractured Democratic Party, will face enormous pressure to help oppose and rebuild. For years, she has mostly bottled up her critiques of Republicans, but they are scorching, say those who have heard the private version. Some Democrats dream of her running for president in 2020, and though Mrs. Obama and those close to her say the idea is out of the question, the general appetite to hear from her may not be as easy for her to dismiss.