February 4, 2008 / 1:38 PM / 12 years ago

Once reticent Michelle Obama is big campaign asset

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Michelle Obama’s fiery campaign style belies the fact that she was hesitant at first about getting involved in her husband Barack’s bid to become U.S. president.

Michelle Obama takes the stage during a rally for her husband Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, February 3, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Obama says she never expected to be on stage extolling her husband’s virtues, but she is revving up crowds as she tells them he is the Democratic candidate who offers the best option for change in the United States.

“I am very passionate about change in the country and that’s what you see,” the 44-year-old Princeton- and Harvard-educated lawyer from Chicago told Reuters in an interview last year.

The woman who would become America’s first black first lady if her husband wins the White House, has taken time off from her job as a vice president of community relations at the University of Chicago Hospitals to campaign.

She spends as much time as she can at home with daughters Malia, 9, and Sasha, 6. She wants their lives to remain as normal as possible, even though she has been hitting the campaign trail for longer periods of time.

Though she joins her husband, 46, for major rallies, where she is a popular warm-up act, Michelle Obama has her own schedule of events — usually in more intimate settings where she can meet people and answer questions one-on-one.

“I am really worried that we won’t make the right decision this time around,” she said. “And I’m really going to put everything that I have into making sure that people understand what’s at stake and that we are thinking with our heads and not with fear.”

“LOVE OF MY LIFE”

Barack Obama often speaks about her. In his victory speeches in recent primaries he has given special thanks to “the love of my life, the rock of the Obama family, the closer on the campaign trail.”

In turn, Michelle Obama gets loud cheers when she appears on stage with her husband, often predicting as she introduces him: “He’s going to be the best president that we have seen in a long time.”

In an interview on Monday, Michelle Obama was asked if she would support Sen. Hillary Clinton if she won the Democratic nomination.

“I have to think about that,” she said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I’d have to think about her policies, her approach, her tone.”

Michelle Obama did her undergraduate studies at Princeton University, where she earned a degree in sociology with a minor in African-American studies.

She went on to Harvard Law School, then worked in a corporate law firm in Chicago.

It was there she met Barack in 1988. Although he is three years older, her husband spent several years working as a community organizer before going to law school. As a new lawyer, Michelle was assigned as his adviser.

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They began dating soon after and were married in 1992.

Obama regularly says he is lucky his wife never decided to run for office. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he wrote, “If I ever had to run against her for public office, she would beat me without much difficulty.”

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online here)

Editing by Vicki Allen

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