Turning 50, first lady focuses on final 3 years in White House

By

Published:

 

Her husband's pressure-packed days as a candidate are over. Her daughters have grown more independent. She's almost ready to look around the corner and envision life after the White House.

It's halftime for Michelle Obama.

As she turns 50 today and begins her sixth year as first lady, Obama is clear on who she is and looking forward to the three remaining years, said Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend and adviser to the Obamas.

"She's at the top of her game," Jarrett said. "She's fabulous at 50."

In wide-ranging interview about aging with People Magazine, Obama she said she feels "a greater sense of calm and certainty and maturity and confidence" than she did when she was younger.

Asked for her philosophy on plastic surgery and Botox, she said she's open. "Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves. Right now, I don't imagine that I would go that route, but I've also learned to never say never."

She looks forward to traveling to new places and — when she's older — being a grandmother and taking on the unapologetic attitude of her own mother. "She speaks her mind," Obama told People. "She does exactly what she wants to do every single day without apology. I'm not there yet, but I look forward to that."

With more time spent in the White House than time remaining, Obama's hit not just a personal milestone but a significant point in her tenure as first lady, said Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush.

"This is when it really hits what a temporary custodianship this really is," McBride said of life in the White House. "One of the things you're thinking about is this realization of how fast the time goes. … You start thinking about just how much you want to do."

For Obama, that means plotting how she can aid the administration's programs boosting higher education. After her husband's reelection, she and her staff underwent weeks of strategic planning to determine what she would do during the second term. In addition to supporting military families and promoting health and wellness, she decided to focus on encouraging more young people to attend college.

After an extended Christmas vacation in Hawaii with her family and an extra week with friends, Obama is back in Washington and focused on her budding education initiative.

She spoke to teachers and high school counselors Wednesday at a White House movie screening of "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" promoting education. The following day she joined the president for a meeting with 100 college presidents to discuss ways to boost college enrollment among low-income students.

Her official schedule will continue according to the clockwork-like rhythm set in the East Wing. Next month marks the fourth year of Let's Move, when she holds a tour promoting healthy eating and exercise. Her work on behalf of military families, which includes encouraging companies to set aside jobs for returning service members, continues.

"I will be in my early 50s when I leave here, and I have so much more that I should do," Obama told People. "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."