6 Nov 2008

Michelle Obama - new style of US first lady

1:10 am on 6 November 2008

Michelle Obama brings the skills of a corporate lawyer to the White House as first lady to President-elect Barack Obama, but she says her priority will be her role as "mom-in-chief" to the couple's two daughters.

Democrat Obama beat Republican John McCain in Tuesday's election. He will be the first black United States president and his wife the first black first lady.

Michelle Obama, 44, was a passionate advocate for her husband's candidacy, but she says she would not want a direct policy role in an Obama administration.

"My first job, in all honesty, is going to continue to be 'mom-in-chief,'" she said in a recent magazine interview referring to daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

She also says she hopes to focus ways women maintain a work-family balance and the needs of military families, and she could act as an informal adviser to her husband as she has been during the campaign.

Ms Obama, who grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood on the south side of Chicago and went to public school, often talks about her father - who worked for the city's public water system - and the values instilled by her parents.

After winning scholarships to the elite universities of Princeton and Harvard law school, she worked for a law firm and in the Chicago mayor's office.

Her most recent job was vice president of the University of Chicago hospitals, where she earned more than her husband. Even though the Obamas are now well off, partly due to royalties from Barack Obama's two books, Michelle Obama stresses the values she learned growing up.

"When you are raised in a home (in which) you have love and security and you have people who are sacrificing for you, you have an obligation to give back," she said. "That's why community service has been such a big part of my life."

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr Obama described his wife as "my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life." He says she has been a source of strength and a gentle critic who keeps him grounded.