Dr. Jill Biden is a Renaissance woman. With two master’s degrees, a doctorate in education, and four years of past experience in the White House, it is safe to say that Biden is well-equipped for the duties of First Lady of the United States.
As Biden returns to the White House, she is ready to reshape how America interprets the First Lady position. Rather than selecting one campaign to champion, Biden has elected to tackle a myriad of issues. By redefining the role of First Lady, Biden is paving a path for a female political reformation.
Biden has elected to focus on “military families, cancer research, free community college and education in general” during her term. A recent CNN article reported that the First Lady thrives when multitasking, epitomized by the fact that she plans to continue teaching throughout her husband’s presidency.
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I don’t seek to diminish the achievements of past First Ladies. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign dramatically shaped my generation’s health habits through a variety of marketing and educational efforts. Instead, I assert that like the President of the United States, the First Lady should be expected to champion multiple issues.
After all, many problems are interconnected and the efficacy of solving one problem increases when it can be linked to other issues.
In order to better articulate this concept, let’s look at the University of Wisconsin model for higher education. The “Wisconsin Idea” centers around one concept, that education extends beyond the boundaries of the classroom and every citizen deserves access to the ability to learn.
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As students, we follow our curiosity toward a variety of organizations, majors and personal interests. A liberal arts education rests on the idea that our knowledge is powerful, because it will allow us to better society at large.
As an educator herself, Biden prioritizes cross-discipline action. She does not seek to focus on the issue of education alone, but rather how it and other factors extend to the military, disease, etcetera.
Furthermore, if someone like the First Lady is limited on the scope of action she takes, we are limiting the number of people who can participate in collective action.
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As a firm believer in the “Wisconsin Idea” and its philosophy on boundless learning and collective action, I am eager to see what Biden accomplishes during her time as First Lady.
While we do not yet have a female President, redefining the role of First Lady is a crucial first step toward female empowerment in the executive branch.
My hope is that Biden’s trailblazing inspires women in politics to challenge the norms of their positions. Perhaps, after this progress is made, we will see a First Gentleman take office, eager to alongside his wife, the Madam President of the United States.
Emma Axelrod ([email protected]) is a junior studying political science and journalism.