New chapter

As she prepares to leave the White House, Michelle Obama plans next phase of life


Former first lady Laura Bush described the period following the end of her husband’s presidency as a relief, the pressures of daily public life having been finally alleviated after eight years. As Michelle Obama prepares to make her exit from the White House, she too talks keenly of a return to normal life. “I want to open my front door without discussing it with anyone — and just walk,” she said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey late last year.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Obama’s longtime deputy chief of staff, Melissa Winter, discussed what lies ahead for the outgoing first lady, whose approval ratings as she departs the White House exceed those of both her husband and Vice President Joe Biden.

Hired in 2007 during then Senator Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign, Winter was described in an email by the first lady as one of her most “trusted advisors and dearest friends” and, after a short break, will lead a small staff in an office space in Washington as they strategize future projects.

“Right now it is an empty plate,” Winter said. “I really think the most important thing is to give her time to breathe and get acclimated to being a private citizen again, knowing that she doesn’t have to tell people where she’s going to go, and we don’t have to put out an advisory if she’s going to go walk around a museum.” Since she is not the president, Winter explained, her team doesn’t have that same sense of urgency to get off the ground as soon as the administration comes to a close. They have time.

But Winter notes there is a “hunger” for Obama’s voice in public life and, with such a powerful voice, she can afford to be more selective in the causes she chooses to champion — “sometimes less is more” Winter adds. The family will also need to generate an income to support themselves. Having formerly been the family’s primary breadwinner, the first lady hasn’t had an income for the past eight years, but is already working on her memoirs which are expected to net a multi-million dollar advance. Winter suspects she has several books in her.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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