Michelle to Young Girls: Aim for Vacuous Celebrity, Not Useful Productivity

While the president was away in L.A., the first lady played – mentor, with the help of some stars. She organized a round-robin of visits to Washington D.C. schools and a White House event for young girls, to demonstrate to them they could grow up to be anything they chose in America. (You know, that country she had no pride in before her husband’s nomination?)

If all the national and local D.C. media coverage of this I saw and read is accurate, Michelle, judging by the stars she presented as role models, wants the young women to aspire to be singers and actresses, athletes, 4-star generals and astronauts. There was only one woman CEO or entrepreneur mentioned by media – Debra Lee, the CEO of the Black Entertainment Network; no women small business owners,  no top women sales professionals – not even difference-makers like school teachers or nurses and caregivers or stay-at-home moms raising successful families.

Or even political leaders, like, say the successful governor of a fiscally stable state. Like, say, Governor Sarah Palin. She was one of only two women ever to run for vice-president on either of the two major parties’ tickets, and a mom. And unlike, say, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, she hasn’t run her state into the ground.

No, Michelle presented Alicia Keyes and Sheryl Crow, actresses Fran Drescher and Phylicia Rashad; a couple of athletes; the first black woman to travel in space; and a celebrity make-up artist.

What is so significant here is that nearly all the examples-to-aspire-to presented are primarily supported by the economy; not supporters of the economy. Not creators of innovative products, of companies, of jobs. Not women who started some sort of enterprises from scratch and built them into successful businesses. Heaven forbid we should encourage these girls to grow up to be business owners. Better for them to hope for a spin of the wheel of celebrity via American Idol. Particularly appropriate given our celebrity-president.

None of the media reports I found took any notice of the rather glaring omission. They all just ooh-ed and aah-ed over Michelle’s hosting of the for-show celebrity fest the same day her celebrity husband became the first sitting president to go and play on “The Tonight Show,” sandwiched between the comedy routine about products from the 99-cent store and a singer (perhaps right where he belongs).

Michelle Obama’s choices here reveal much. Oh, and I’ll wager nothing was said about the outrageous, obscene differential between Ms. Crow’s income and that of her housekeeper or janitor at the recording studio or roadies on her tours, nor of her climate ruining use of a private jet to fly to Washington. 

Of course, every president and first lady mingle with and use celebrities. Undoubtedly, high school girls are more easily and instantly fascinated with a singer they know than the owner of a company they don’t. Anything done to motivate kids to stay in school, go to college, think better of themselves and their opportunities deserves praise, not scorn. Who am I to be a Grinch about this? 

But you can’t help but notice a certain Obama theme everywhere you see or hear the Obamas. It’s at best dismissive; at worst, a fermenting of anger against the individuals in society who create the lion’s share of the jobs, bear the lion’s share of the responsibilities and of the tax burden; stoke the economy’s engine; create, risk and invest. 

The media missed or approves of the real message of Michelle’s meet-n-greet: Girls, don’t grow up to be producers.

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at www.NoBSBooks.com, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at www.DanKennedy.com.