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Michelle Obama calls self "a 120 percenter." Tackles Workplace Issues

5 years ago
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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama is the first to acknowledge-as she did Thursday--she is living a blessed life.

Having staff around to help-as she does-would be the answer to the prayers of a lot of us.

Mrs. Obama mused on her present-and past-life in remarks to a "Corporate Voices for Working Families" conference here. The non-profit, non-partisan group, bankrolled by a variety of corporations, focuses on working family issues, also an agenda item for the First Lady.


"And even though my current life, trust me, is very different than it was and for most people -- and I do know that; I know that right now I am living, as challenging as it may seem, in a very blessed situation, because I have what most families don't have, is tons of support all around, not just my mother but staff and administration.

"I have a Chief of Staff and a personal assistant, and everyone needs that; that's what we need. Everyone should have a Chief of Staff and a set of personal assistants," Mrs. Obama said.

Mrs. Obama often talked on the campaign trail about her own struggle to balance her career and family while her husband-now President Obama-- was on his own meteoric rise. On Thursday, she said she put pressure on herself because she is a "120-percenter."

"I call myself a 120-percenter. If I'm not doing any job at 120 percent, I think I'm failing. So if you're trying to do that at home and at work, you find it very difficult and stressful and frustrating," Mrs. Obama said.

The First Lady presented to corporate America a set of fairly specific items to work on, making clear she was not looking to push legislative mandates on companies. Still, "there are a lot of people counting on us to figure this out. And one of the reasons I was interested in joining you today is because the research that you do provides a solid foundation for the conversations that we need to have on these issues.

"Through your work, the private sector, government and other key stakeholders can have a real dialogue based on facts, find common ground and then develop innovative policies that can help employees manage their work and family obligations, without going crazy."

Mrs. Obama carved out three areas to work on:


*Flex hours

*Paid leave for birth, adoption or family illness

*Work-site child care


"We need to discuss flexible work hours that give employees greater ability to attend to important family responsibilities like child pick-up, something as simple as that; doctors appointments for those not just with kids, but for people with elderly parents. We're finding more and more that families are in that crunch, as well.

"We need to discuss paid leave for birth or adoption of a child and when there's a serious illness that arises.

"We need to discuss quality on-site child care, something that keeps many of us up at night as families; you're just wondering where are we going to put our children where we feel like that they're being safe -- that they're safe and being loved. That will relieve many of the stresses that parents feel on the job throughout the day.

"These types of policies can be the key to whether a family remains economically viable or slips into financial uncertainty.

"I expect this day to be the first of what will be for me many conversations that I'll get a chance to participate in. We need to find ways to encourage other employers to follow your lead and adopt work-life policies that afford employees flexibility and much-needed support. We want to work together to make clear that, again, investing in these types of policies pays off for employers as well as the employees."

First Lady pool reporter Jonathan Allen, the politics reporter for Congressional Quarterly, earned fashion maven credentials with his description of Mrs. Obama's wardrobe:

Reported Allen, "FLOTUS wore a short-sleeved, floral-patterned blouse of red, purple, pink, peach and yellow with thick black trim around the shoulders and the edges of the sleeves. Underneath, she had on a soft purple camisole. The blouse was held closed by a six-inch light brown belt with gold studs. She wore black pants and black shoes. Information on designers was not immediately available."

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