But as the clock wound down on her half-hour talk—a talk whose purpose was, after all, to round up votes, volunteers, and contributions—she wasn't bringing it back around to Barack Obama's run for the White House. Surely she wasn't planning to leave the stage without the pointed call to action known on the campaign trail as "the ask"? Yet now she was using those grandmothers of Siaya to launch into still another idea: that women cannot afford to neglect one another. "My ability to get through my day greatly depends on the relationships that I have with other women," she said. "We all need that kind of community in our lives, but it is difficult to create if we are unable to sustain meaningful relationships with other women. Y'all know what I'm talking about. We have to be able to champion other women. We have to root for each other's successes and not delight in one another's failures." The crowd was clapping along, totally on her side. "If there is anyone who has a broken relationship with another woman," she continued, "if there was a woman in your life that you have not communicated with because of ego or embarrassment or jealousy or fear of rejection, a sister or a friend or a mother or a child who could or should be a part of your community, I ask you to reach out to that woman today."

There it was—the ask, Michelle Obama style. And really, I should have seen it coming; the girl-power pitch has become one of her central themes. A cynic might say that this makes good political sense: Hillary Clinton, presumptive leader of the Democratic primary field, has built her campaign on the support of women, and if anyone is to snatch the nomination from her, they must make inroads here. But Michelle is playing a more basic role, introducing her husband to the American public. To do so, she is introducing herself, using her biography and beliefs to help explain who he is and what he cares about. 


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