First Lady Michelle Obama turned 50 on Friday, is only just starting to build her legacy. Presidential historians expect to see more from her in her commitment to fighting childhood obesity, supporting military families and encouraging good education and volunteer work to deepen in the next couple of years, and anticipate she will fully devote herself to those issues after she and her family leave the White House.
“I will be in my early 50s when I leave here, and I have so much more that I should do,” Obama recently said in an interview with People magazine. “I don’t have the right to just sit on my talents or blessings. I’ve got to keep figuring out ways to have an impact — whether as a mother or as a professional or as a mentor to other kids.”
The first lady is likely to continue promoting Let’s Move, her fitness and wellness program, and Join Forces, which assists military families, plus return to the philanthropy work that she did before she became first lady. But she’s unlikely to make a run for public office, experts say.
Robert Watson, a presidential historian and professor at Lynn University in Florida, expects the final year of President Obama’s second term to be a big year for Michelle Obama.
“If history holds, I expect Mrs. Obama will enlarge in her role,” he said, pointing to the fact that she already is making more of an effort to promote a good education than she did in the president’s first term.
“She’s going to assert herself. We’re going to see more of the Ivy League-educated lawyer and former CEO,” he said, adding that while presidents often have difficult second terms marred by sagging approval ratings or scandals, as was the case with Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, first ladies “tend to spread their wings” during second terms.