The Democratic National Convention opened in Denver, Colorado, Monday as the party prepares to nominate the first African-American candidate for U.S. president. On the first night of the convention, the task of introducing Barack Obama, the man, was given to his wife, Michelle. The 44-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer describes herself as a not-so-traditional spouse and mother, who just happens to be married to the man who could be the next president of the United States. VOA's Mil Arcega has more.
The woman who could be the first lady of the United States says her working class upbringing helps to keep things in perspective. "I am Michelle Obama. I live in Chicago. I'm married to this guy Barack. And that's about it," she said.
Out on the campaign trail, Michelle Obama says she is not afraid to offer the public a glimpse of the real man, "This is the hope guy - I've seen it," Mrs. Obama said. "I'm like, you really believe this stuff don't you?"
Obama says a sense of humor and self-assurance has always helped guide her - from the southside of Chicago, through Harvard Law School, to a career at a prestigious law firm where she met a charismatic young man named Barack.
"I must say that Barack, about a month in, asked me out. And I thought, 'No way. This is completely tacky. I've got an advisee and I'm going to date him?' So, it took about a month or so for him to talk me into going out on our first date," she recalled.
Early in their careers, Michelle says both realized they were motivated by a passion to help their communities.
But close friend and former classmate Angela Acree says Michelle's true passion is raising her two daughters. "I think she defines herself by what is most important to her and I think at this point in her life, it's raising the girls so that they are comfortable, safe and happy," Acree said.
Despite the hectic campaign schedule, Michelle says the girls, now ages 10 and seven remain her top priority.
But Michelle Obama, herself, has become the target of conservative critics. Many questioned her patriotism after she made these comments about her husband's success.
"For the first time in my adult life I am really proud of my country," Mrs. Obama stated.
But after the gesture, one conservative TV network labeled a "terrorist fist bump," and some unflattering magazine covers, a protective Barack Obama issued this warning.
"If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. These folks should lay off my wife," he said.
While Michelle Obama admits things get a bit testy on the campaign trail, she says it is part of the political process. "You enter this business, you've got to have a thick skin. And we've got thick skins over the course of this," she said.
Like other candidates' wives before her, Michelle Obama is seen by many as her husband's best character witness. Despite the enormous attention that will be focused on her during the four-day convention, Obama says she remains fully grounded in reality.
"I don't want to paint some unrealistic picture of who we are," she said. "I've got a loud mouth. I tease my husband. He is incredibly smart and he is very able to deal with a strong woman, which is one of the reasons why he can be president, because he can deal with me!"