About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Melania and Michelle: First Ladies in a New Era "

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
December 13, 2019

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for today’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we get started, I’d like tell you about two other programs coming up later this month and next.

On Monday, December 16, at 7 p.m., David Rubenstein, a great friend to the National Archives, will be here with historians Jay Winik, Taylor Branch, and H. W. Brands to discuss his own book, The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians.

And on Thursday, January 16, at noon, author William Rosenau tells a shocking, never-before-told story from his book Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Visit its website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about the Foundation and join online.

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This afternoon’s talk is part of a series of programs related to our special exhibit upstairs in the Lawrence F. O‘Brien Gallery—Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.

Rightfully Hers commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment and tells the story of women’s struggle for voting rights as a critical step toward equal citizenship. The exhibit explores how American women across the spectrum of race, ethnicity, and class advanced the cause of suffrage and follows the struggle for voting rights beyond 1920.

Before and after 1920, women were active in the public arena, and many served in public office, both appointed and elected.

But the most visible women in the world of politics have not been on a ballot. The First Lady has long been a figure of public fascination, although she holds no official government “office” and has assumed the role not through election but through her connection to the President. Even though they have not actively sought their very public roles, they face high expectations from the public at large.

Today, Tammy Vigil will tell us about the two most recent First Ladies—Melania Trump and Michelle Obama—and how they have coped with those expectations and shaped the role of First Lady to fit their own personalities and priorities.

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Tammy R. Vigil is an associate professor of communication at Boston University. Her research interests include political campaigns, persuasion, and women as political communicators. She is the author of Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, Connecting with Constituents: Identification Building and Blocking in Contemporary National Convention Addresses, and co-author of The Third Agenda in U.S. Presidential Debates: Debate Watch and Citizen Reactions, 1996–2004. Dr. Vigil has published journal articles and book chapters on the rhetoric of Michelle Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George W. Bush, and on national nominating conventions. She has served as an expert source for stories in several news outlets, including the Guardian, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, and NPR.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tammy Vigil.