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In Virginia Beach, a struggle to return to routine less than 72 hours after tragedy

CLOSE Various services and vigils were held on Saturday to remember the 12 victims of Friday’s Virginia Beach, Va. shooting. WochitLess than 72 hours after the worst mass shooting of 2019, the Virginia Beach community greeted a new workweek Monday morning with heavy hearts as residents struggled to piece together a sense of normalcy.Much of…

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In Virginia Beach, a struggle to return to routine less than 72 hours after tragedy

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Various services and vigils were held on Saturday to remember the 12 victims of Friday’s Virginia Beach, Va. shooting.
WochitLess than 72 hours after the worst mass shooting of 2019, the Virginia Beach community greeted a new workweek Monday morning with heavy hearts as residents struggled to piece together a sense of normalcy.Much of the police tape barring public access to the Virginia Beach Municipal Center had already come down, but the doors to city offices remained shuttered following a gun rampage by a longtime city employee that left 12 people dead.The center will reopen Tuesday, city officials say, but Building 2 where the shooting took place will be closed indefinitely.Among the few municipal center facilities opening their doors Monday was the administrative building for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. As students and staff returned to classrooms Monday morning, Superintendent Aaron Spence said routine is a top priority for the week.More: Virginia Beach shooting: What we know about the motive, the victims”One of the things we know whenever there’s trauma, a traumatic event like this is that it’s important to get children back into routines, just of normalcy, as quickly as possible,” he said.Regular elements of the school day will continue as usual, such as state testing planned for this week, but teachers and administrators will be making extra efforts, he said, to let students know they’re ready to help and answer questions.The school system’s teaching and learning team worked through the weekend, Spence said, preparing messages for teachers, as well as strategies they can use to talk to students, taking into account the varying ages and maturity levels that may need support.More: ‘Got to see if anybody else needs help’: Virginia Beach shooting hero died trying to save others”We’re not actively promoting stopping teaching and talking about this, but sometimes those questions come up, and it just provides a moment to have a conversation with the child,” he said.People stop by a memorial to victims of a mass shooting on June 3, 2019, in Virginia Beach. (Photo: Megan Raymond, Salisbury Daily Times-USA TODAY)Each school also has a crisis response team, he said, which includes counselors and school psychologists who will be available to students and staff. Spence said the community’s schools are already equipped with a “robust security program,” and they’ll be doubling down on those efforts to ensure students and staff feel secure.Much of the activity at the municipal center Monday morning focused around a growing memorial erected in front of building 11, which houses the police department. Mourners adorned in varying shades of blue – the color adopted as a symbol of unity – approached the line of 12 white crosses with bouquets and other tributes. Each cross had been decorated with a victim’s name and photo as well as balloons, American flags, flowers and psalms.More: A ‘woman of God,’ a Scottish music lover: These are the victims of Virginia Beach shootingFor Ryan Keith Cox, a 13-year veteran of the city’s public utilities department who reports say was shot while trying to help colleagues to safety, people penned messages such as “Thanks for your bravery,” and “Thanks for saving lives.”Thank you! You’re almost signed up for Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.Multiple K-9 teams from Crisis Response Canines stood by to comfort those working to confront their grief, including Becky Langer and her K-9 partner Exon. The organization has provided its support to multiple communities recovering after mass shootings, including Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Parkland, Florida.People leave handwritten messages at a memorial to victims of a mass shooting that killed 12 in Virginia Beach, Va. (Photo: Megan Raymond, Salisbury Daily Times-USA TODAY)”It’s very important for the people who are going through this crisis, whether it’s community members, victims, first responders especially, to get them de-stressed, to bring the calm to them, let them pet the dogs and just decompress a little,” Langer said.Peggy Bryan was among those who embraced Langer and Exon, seeking solace as she looked over the messages of love community members had left for victims with tears in her eyes and a tremble in her voice.More: Suspected Virginia Beach shooter used a gun suppressor. Did it make Friday’s shooting deadlier?A lifelong Virginia Beach resident, Bryan taught in city schools for more than three decades but now works in neighboring Chesapeake. She stopped by the memorial on her way into work. Bryan knew a handful of people who had been in building 2 when the gunfire broke out, including a friend’s son who heard the shots but was able to escape safely.With the heartache still fresh in her mind, she said returning to work as usual would be difficult, but the tragedy has not stolen her sense of security.”Everybody says, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen here.’ Well, it did,” she said. “Our police department has done such a wonderful job and our mayor. I don’t feel unsafe anywhere in this city.”AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideBecky Demetriou lives down the street from the municipal center and was driving by with friends as the shooting took place. They didn’t see much because police quickly directed them out of the area.Since then, Demetriou said there’s been a sense of guilt because she’s been able to go on with her normal life, and she felt pulled to return to the center and visit the memorial.”I know people that went there that morning to get permits and they luckily got out of there,” Demetriou said. “They wanted to go early to avoid traffic and whatever. Friday afternoon, it could’ve been a lot worse I imagine.”Suffolk resident Tammy Peterson works in Virginia Beach managing an employment center. She previously spent 20 years in the financial industry and said one of the victims had been a client. She described the loss as surreal.”The reality is that there is a family that is left without a dad, a brother, a husband. And there’s going to be a long road ahead of them, for all of the families,” she said. More: How cops cope with shooting trauma: ‘They’re going to be forever changed,’ Virginia Beach police chief saysSeeing the community unite has been an “unbelievable” experience for Peterson. It’s not just Virginia Beach, she said, but all of Hampton Roads, which includes Chesapeake, Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton.Peterson stopped by the memorial during her Monday lunch break. In her office, she said she’s felt the need to step up and be a leader for her staff as they work to process their emotions.”Everybody kind of processes this kind of thing differently in my opinion, and I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way,” she said. “So I think there has to be an open tolerance and understanding for everybody, whatever stage they’re at with this.”Edward Sivells Sr. of Chesapeake was drawn to the memorial by the victims and their stories, particularly those of Christopher Kelly Rapp, who had only recently moved to Virginia Beach, and Joshua Hardy, whose family member is a Norfolk pastor Sivells knows.”It’s sad that tragedy has to constantly bring us together, but oftentimes, it works for a common good,” he said of seeing people from different walks of life come together to be with one another in their sadness.Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/06/03/virginia-beach-shooting-residents-struggle-to-return-to-routines/1329819001/
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These 10 charts show how the US economy performed under Trump vs prior presidents

AMERICA’S ECONOMY President Donald Trump inherited a strong economy, and it continued to grow at a healthy rate during his first three years in office. Then the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything. By Annalyn Kurtz and Tal Yellin, CNN BusinessPublished October 28, 2020Updated October 29, 2020 At the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in January 2017,…

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These 10 charts show how the US economy performed under Trump vs prior presidents

AMERICA’S ECONOMY

President Donald Trump inherited a strong economy, and it continued to grow at a healthy rate during his first three years in office. Then the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything.
By Annalyn Kurtz and Tal Yellin, CNN BusinessPublished October 28, 2020Updated October 29, 2020

At the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in January 2017, the economy was healthy.

Employers had added jobs for 76 months straight — the longest hiring streak on record at the time — and unemployment was just 4.7%, a 10-year low. Corporate profits were near all-time highs, and so were stocks. Overall, gross domestic product was growing around 2.5% a year — a modest rate for the world’s largest economy. Not everything was rosy: the federal debt was at its highest level since the 1950s. But by most metrics, it was hard to deny: the economy was on solid footing. And fortunately for Trump, the growth continued from there.

Below, we’ve tracked 10 indicators to show how the economy evolved under each president from Ronald Reagan to Trump. Keep in mind, each presidency started under different circumstances. George W. Bush’s first year in office was plagued by the dot-com bust and the September 11th attacks. Barack Obama’s started with the Great Recession, following a devastating housing crash and a global financial crisis. Despite these crises, however, most recent presidents have presided over a growing economy during their time in office. The Trump presidency will be characterized by the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still playing out both as a health crisis and an economic one.

Hover over the charts to see how the economy under Trump compares with how it evolved under his predecessors.

Up until 2020, President Trump’s first term was characterized by solid job growth, but then the pandemic wiped out about 15% of American jobs in just two months. Since May, the economy has recovered only about half those jobs, and Trump is heading into the election with the worst job losses on record under any president.

In contrast, at this point in Obama’s presidency, the job market was up 0.4%. He took office at a time when employers were cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. Hiring kicked into higher gear later in his presidency.

By the time Trump entered office, he had inherited one of the strongest job markets in American history from Obama. But Covid-19 swiftly put an end to that. The unemployment rate shot to 14.7%, up 10 percentage points from when Trump took office. Although it has improved slightly since then, unemployment still remained elevated in September. No other president has encountered such a sudden spike in joblessness.

Trump loves to talk about how middle class incomes have increased during his presidency — and that was true in his first three years. In September, the Census Bureau released data showing that the median American household earned $68,703 in 2019 — up $5,800 or 9% from 2016, after adjusting for inflation. A strong job market helped lift incomes, as more people worked full-time, year-round. And more than 20 states also raised their minimum wage, boosting earnings for low-income workers.

We don’t have data for 2020 yet, but the pandemic will surely impact those numbers in a big way. For some families, $1,200 stimulus checks and a temporary $600 boost in weekly unemployment benefits actually lifted incomes during the pandemic. But many others, especially those who have lost businesses or are grappling with long-term joblessness, are struggling to make ends meet.

The longest bull market in history began shortly after Obama entered office and continued well into Trump’s presidency. Investors welcomed Trump’s corporate tax cuts in 2017, and although the trade war with China put them on edge, stocks enjoyed a record-breaking run all the way up to 2020. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the S&P 500 plunged 34% in about a month, before recovering later in the summer. As of October 28, the index was up 44% in Trump’s presidency, overall. While that quick bounce-back is a bright spot for him, it also contrasts with 75% stock gains under Obama and 63% gains under Clinton at the same point in their presidencies.

The housing market is one of the few parts of the economy that hasn’t dramatically declined during the pandemic. That’s in part because record-low interest rates and the work-from-home trend have led city dwellers to buy homes in suburban and rural areas, boosting home prices in many regions. It’s also because extensive measures, including a moratorium on evictions and forbearance programs for mortgages, have helped struggling families weather the crisis so far. Those unpaid bills could eventually catch up to millions of families, causing distress in the housing market. But so far, home prices are up 21% since Trump’s inauguration.

Food pricesSmall increases

If it feels like your grocery bill is higher lately, that’s because food prices did surge suddenly during the pandemic. Over the longer haul, however, they’ve been relatively stable. At this same point in the presidencies of Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush, food prices were already up 9% or more. They’re up only 6.1% under Trump, and were up 5.9% under Obama, reflecting an era of low inflation.

Consumer spendingUp, but underperforming

American consumers are the backbone of the US economy and are not easily fazed. Although consumers sharply cut back on spending at the start of the pandemic, they were quick to reopen their wallets in May and June once stimulus checks and unemployment benefits came to their aid. Retail spending on goods, particularly through online retailers, rebounded swiftly. (Meanwhile, spending on services like haircuts, travel and dining out at restaurants remains well below pre-Covid-19 norms.) Even with a quick recovery, though, consumer spending has grown less under Trump than under any of the prior five presidents.

Manufacturing jobsBarely changed

American manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979, and no president other than Clinton has presided over gains in factory jobs since then. So when Trump promised to bring back factory jobs, it was a tall order. In Trump’s first three years, the manufacturing sector did add some jobs, but in 2020, the pandemic ruined what little progress those workers had enjoyed. As of September, the sector was down 164,000 jobs, or 1.3% from when Trump took office. That said, layoffs at factories were even steeper under Presidents Reagan, Obama and the Bushes, as globalization and technological progress reduced America’s manufacturing workforce.

The federal government’s debt burden hasn’t been this high relative to the size of the economy since World War II, but it didn’t get there during Trump’s presidency alone. The debt grew under Reagan, who ushered in massive tax cuts, and it surged under Obama, who used federal stimulus funds to aid the economy during the Great Recession.

At the time Trump took office, the debt totaled around 76% of GDP. But by mid 2020, it was 105% – a 29 percentage-point increase during his presidency. Economists often argue for paying down the debt when the economy is strong, and spending more when the economy is weak. But despite his promises to “get rid of” the debt, Trump has grown it in both good times and bad. While much of that increase came from coronavirus relief funds, earlier policies like corporate tax cuts and an increase in defense spending also fueled the rise.

Gross domestic productA deep recession

The widest measure of economic activity — gross domestic product — measures the value of the goods and services produced in the country. It typically grows between 2% to 3% per year after adjusting for inflation. Trump’s first three years were all within that range, but 2020 saw a deep decline. We don’t have a full year of data yet, but the second quarter was the worst in records going back to 1947. Third-quarter data, which was released on Thursday, showed a partial recovery.

Many economists predict businesses and workers will not fully bounce back from this severe economic downturn for years.

Additional development by Byron Manley

Notes

The gross domestic product lines are calculated as percentage change from the fourth quarter preceding each president’s inauguration, which is the most recent data before they took office. The lines for median income are calculated as percentage change from the last calendar year preceding each president’s inauguration. The lines showing unemployment and the federal debt are calculated as percentage-point change, since those two metrics started as ratios. All other lines are calculated as percentage change from the January when each president was inaugurated. President Reagan isn’t featured in the home prices data because the data is only available back to 1987 and doesn’t encompass his entire presidency.

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Analysis: North Korea is going to be a major headache for whoever wins the US election

Pyongyang’s first missile test during Donald Trump’s presidency came even sooner. On his 23rd day in office, as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down for dinner on the terrace of the US President’s opulent Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the successful test launch of a solid-fueled ballistic…

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Analysis: North Korea is going to be a major headache for whoever wins the US election

Pyongyang’s first missile test during Donald Trump’s presidency came even sooner. On his 23rd day in office, as he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat down for dinner on the terrace of the US President’s opulent Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the successful test launch of a solid-fueled ballistic missile. When it comes to divining North Korea’s intentions, some words of wisdom variously attributed to both Mark Twain and New York Yankee’s legend Yogi Berra ring particularly true: Predictions are hard, especially about the future.This is, after all, North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated societies and secretive governments. But we do know that Pyongyang closely studies the machinations in Washington. And, as they proved during the early days of the Trump and Obama presidencies, Kim and his advisers know how to grab America’s attention — and they may choose to do so after taking the backseat to the US election, protests over racial injustice and a global pandemic.A Biden administration, or Trump during a second term, could be forced to deal with Pyongyang sooner than they’d like.Trump’s tenureDisarming North Korea remains one of the United States’ most intractable foreign policy issues. Since 2006, Pyongyang has successfully tested six nuclear devices and three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), weapons Kim says are meant to deter foreign aggression and ensure the continuity of the regime that he leads with an iron fist.The country’s dogged pursuit of these armaments, however, has come at a tremendous cost. Sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear program essentially bar North Korea — one of the world’s poorest countries — from trading with the outside world. That means there are few opportunities for North Korea to improve its economy and increase the livelihood of its people, a key promise Kim has made to his people.The US hoped that sanctions would cripple North Korea and force Kim to negotiate. And President Trump had hoped that by becoming the first sitting president to sit face-to-face with a North Korean leader, he could engineer some sort of breakthrough. But despite these one-on-ones, negotiations have been at an impasse since the two leaders’ second summit in 2019 in Hanoi. Trump wanted some sort of “big deal” that would see North Korea give up its nuclear program for immediate sanctions relief, but Kim was only prepared to shut down Yongbyon, the biggest and best-known facility in North Korea that produced fissile material for nuclear weapons, in exchange for sanctions relief, according to Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton. That wasn’t enough for Trump, so he walked. “There were opportunities potentially having a direct engagement between the leaders but, as things showed, it wasn’t a silver bullet to resolve the issues,” said Markus Garlauskas, a former national intelligence officer for North Korea on the US’ National Intelligence Council. Hanoi, Garlauskas said, proved that it wasn’t a lack of communication or leader-to-leader contact that had prevented a breakthrough.The “fundamental obstacle,” he said, is “Kim’s lack of interest in giving up those nuclear weapons, and his willingness to sustain very high cost to keep them.” Communicate early, communicate oftenTo date, the Trump administration has sold its North Korea policy as a win. That’s because since November 2017, Kim has not tested any nuclear weapons or long-range missiles — the weapons designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States homeland. During their first summit, Trump and Kim struck what appeared to be a tacit agreement that, as long as talks were going on, North Korea would not test ICBMs or nuclear bombs. Trump, in turn, scaled down the number of military drills the US conducts with South Korea. These exercises are meant to keep troops ready in case of conflict, but North Korea sees them as hostile and will often claim they are practice for an invasion. The accord, however, did not apply to shorter-range missiles that could be used to target US troops or allies in the region, which North Korea has continued to test. And Pyongyang made no commitment to stop developing or enhancing its weaponry in ways short of testing them. On October 10, North Korea rolled out what is believed to be one of the world’s biggest ICBMs at a military parade on a significant anniversary in Pyongyang. Weapons experts said it appeared the gigantic missile was designed to carry multiple warheads to penetrate missile defense systems — proving that North Korea’s commitment to stop testing ICBMs didn’t mean it wasn’t going to stop working on them. If North Korea was to consider this new missile viable, it would need to conduct a test launch. Though Kim pledged not to test ICBMs during US negotiations, he said in a speech last year that he no longer felt duty-bound to comply with the promise. He has blamed the US for the diplomatic impasse and says it has been “deceived by the US,” wasting 18 months on talks.Now, some experts worry that testing the new mammoth ICBM could be a possible next step to get attention after the election.”I would not be surprised at all to see the North Koreans take some kind of a step in the ballistic missile testing arena or in the nuclear testing arena, particularly if Biden wins the election,” said Evans Revere, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific. “I think the North Koreans are going to want to have him start out on the back foot to the extent possible. And one way to do that would be what they did with President Obama.” Biden’s biggest challenge, experts say, could come during the presidential transition. His campaign website has just one vague sentence on North Korea policy, so it’s likely Biden and his aides would need to quickly identify a strategy to get North Korea to move toward denuclearization, and to find the right people to implement that strategy.Joseph Yun, who served as a State Department special representative for North Korea under Obama and Trump, said it would be crucial for Biden to get in touch with the North Koreans and lay out his red lines as quickly as he can, so the North Koreans do not try to discover them on their own.”It’s very important that in the beginning to get off on the right foot,” Yun said. “You might want to send a message to North Korea, saying things like, We want to talk, we are prepared to talk, but for now, give us time and please don’t do any tests.” But each candidate has unique advantages and disadvantages. Trump’s relationship with Kim might help continue to keep the temperature down on the Korean Peninsula, but his commitment to total denuclearization up-front remains unrealistic. Biden has been critical of Trump’s relationship with Kim, whom he called a “thug” at the final presidential debate Thursday. Still, the former vice president has a chance to reset things. He does not need to demand full denuclearization immediately — though he will surely know the failed history of previous incremental deals. Biden will also have to convince Japan and South Korea that Trump’s transactional approach to alliances was a one-off and assure them that Washington is committed to their defense, regardless of cost. But the reality is that Biden and Trump face the same challenge when it comes to Kim: How do you get North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and, eventually, give up arms it sees as vital to deterring adversaries?So far, neither appears to have the answer.

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Why the image of first lady is judged so harshly

The role of first lady of the United States is one of the most visible public positions in the world. From the moment votes are counted, and often during campaigning in the preceding months, the spouse of a newly elected president is thrust into the spotlight, where she remains for the duration of his term.…

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Why the image of first lady is judged so harshly

The role of first lady of the United States is one of the most visible public positions in the world. From the moment votes are counted, and often during campaigning in the preceding months, the spouse of a newly elected president is thrust into the spotlight, where she remains for the duration of his term. Throughout history, we’ve witnessed the breadth and depth of scrutiny withstood by the women who have so far held the position. From her mannerisms, to her physical attributes, to the way she chooses to dress, the first lady is thoroughly examined by the public, the media and those surrounding her on the political stage. And this is even before people begin assessing the work she is expected to carry out as an unpaid, unofficial public servant. Many a first lady has felt the warm glow of public adoration, only to have it quickly flicker out when it is decided that she does not fit the image created for her. Image, in this case, isn’t just about clothing and looks, but also a more nuanced notion of the impression she’s thought to give off. It’s an air around her that is made of both physical and personal traits. And a number of first ladies have fallen victim to aspects of their image that have been both celebrated and weaponized, depending on the onlooking crowd. In “First Ladies,” a documentary series now airing on CNN, we see this paradox play out during six presidencies. The stories offer an ongoing reminder that a woman’s public image is inextricably linked to her success and the level of respect she receives from the outside world. “As a black woman, too, I knew I’d be criticized if I was perceived as being showy and high end, and I’d be criticized also if I was too casual.”Michelle ObamaSo, why do critical voices repeatedly pass such undeserved judgment on these women? Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, offers her answer early in an episode about Michelle Obama: First ladies are meant to be the “representation of American’s better selves.” When Americans elected their first Black president in 2008, the country’s first Black first lady Michelle Obama was, to many adoring fans, a symbol of hope, opportunity and change. Girls and women around the world looked up to this smart, determined woman from Chicago’s South Side who now lived in America’s most famous house. Michelle Obama poses for her official portrait in the Blue Room of the White House in February 2009. Credit: Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House/Getty ImagesBut her critics had a different take on her conviction and strength of character, and they were not afraid to make their often racist and sexist ideas known. On the campaign trail she was labeled “angry,” and her love and loyalty for America was questioned. During the first few months of the Obama presidency her preference for sleeveless looks also drew extraordinary criticism. It was a phenomenon recalled by Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor and critic-at-large for the Washington Post, during an interview for “First Ladies.” “People zeroed in on her arms because they were not the arms of a fragile damsel who was White,” she said in the episode about Obama. “Non-White Americans have for years looked at a White first lady and were still able to say that she represented them. But I think it becomes a much more challenging thing for some White Americans to look at a Black first lady and see themselves in her. Instead, they simply saw her as an alien.” By way of contrast, Jackie Kennedy had been mostly idolized for her beauty and style. While she did face flak from critics on the campaign trail for her expensive taste, from the moment she took to the stage on inauguration day in her now-iconic pillbox hat, Kennedy became the First Lady of Fashion. At age 31 — young enough to be the daughter of the departing Mamie Eisenhower — she was also seen as a symbol of youthful rejuvenation. She appeared on Capitol Hill for her husband’s inauguration like “the gorgeous petal in a dowdy bouquet of fur,” wrote historian Thurston Clarke in his 2004 book “Ask Not.” Jackie Kennedy on inauguration day in 1961. Credit: Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesAnd as journalist Evan Thomas notes during an interview for the CNN series, she “was the perfect prize of the WASP establishment.” “She also knew that the Kennedy family was using her,” Thomas added. “She once said, ‘the family treats me like, like a thing. Like an asset. Like Rhode Island.'”The designer behind Jackie Kennedy’s iconic pillbox hat Credit: CNN Films/HalstonComplex legaciesIf history had played out differently, Jackie Kennedy’s legacy might have been reduced to the story of a pretty object with a flair for interior design (she dedicated much of her time in the White House to renovating the official residence). Tragically, however, she had the opportunity to show the world what she was made of on the day of her husband’s assassination. Hours after President Kennedy was shot beside her, she made a powerful decision: to face the public again in the same blood-stained pink dress she had worn during the attack, famously telling her staff, “I want them to see what they’ve done to Jack.”President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie on November 22, 1963, just after their arrival at the airport for the fateful drive through Dallas. Credit: Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesIt was a catastrophic moment in American history. And it was also a devastating example of the power of clothing: A dress can send a message. In Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming,” the former first lady reveals the lengths she went to when styling herself for public appearances, finding it impossible not to look across the room at her husband: “I sighed sometimes, watching Barack pull the same dark suit out of his closet and head off to work without even needing a comb,” she wrote. “His biggest fashion consideration for a public moment was whether to have his suit jacket on or off. Tie or no tie?”She also discussed the particular challenges she faced as an African American. “As a black woman, too, I knew I’d be criticized if I was perceived as being showy and high end, and I’d be criticized also if I was too casual. So I mixed it up. I’d match a high-end Michael Kors skirt with a T-shirt from Gap. I wore something from Target one day and Diane von Furstenberg the next.”She knew society wouldn’t bend for her. So, in a move that was at once inspiring and saddening, she bent to fit society. But Michelle Obama won in the end. Her layered legacy, which will be defined by her work around issues of health, education and race, also acknowledges how graciously she used her platform to celebrate young, diverse fashion designers alongside the more established set. She wore Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung and Tracy Reese, offering them a moment in her limelight and helping their careers as a result. “For me, my choices were simply a way to use my curious relationship with the public gaze to boost a diverse set of up-and-comers,” she wrote. “As a woman running for President, I liked the visual cue that I was different from the men but also familiar. ”Hillary ClintonLike Jackie Kennedy, Michelle Obama took the fact that she was being scrutinized and itemized for everything she wore and used it to her advantage. This, arguably limited power remains one of the ways that women in politics can make a statement without saying a word.’First Ladies’: Reagan’s inauguration was ‘very Hollywood’ Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesConflicting expectationsNancy Reagan was seen as a relic of old Hollywood when she entered the White House. The inauguration celebrations in 1981 were, by all accounts, lavish and glitzy affairs. Around 700 private jets flew into the city that weekend, and Reagan’s gown — a white beaded one-shouldered sheath of lace over silk satin, made by high-society couturier James Galanos — was a show-stopper. She and her husband, President Ronald Reagan, were both former actors who had met in Los Angeles in the 1940s, and their love for each other was like that of the silver screen. Her critics initially mocked the adoring way she looked at her husband, calling it “the gaze,” and she was seen as too wifely, too 1950s, too concerned with frills and the finer things in life, which seemed at odds with a country plunging into recession. Nancy and Ronald Reagan arrive at the inaugural ball in the Washington Hilton on January 21, 1985. Credit: Ira Schwarz/APBut, through the course of her husband’s eight-year presidency she proved herself to be more than the outdated embodiment of a wealthy suburban wife. According to their son, Ron Reagan, who features in the documentary series, she wanted the President “to be the frontman, and she wanted to be the producer/director behind the scenes.” It was, perhaps, a precursor to the Clintons half-jokingly campaigning under the slogan “buy one get one free.” Indeed, it’s well-documented that Hillary Clinton often felt the scorn of the American public, due in part to her career-woman image. Ironically, while Reagan was criticized for being a 1950s housewife, Clinton was told she wasn’t domesticated enough. Hillary and Bill Clinton leave the White House after the Democratic Business Leaders event in September 1998. Credit: David Hume Kennerly/Archive Photos/Getty ImagesHer aggressors painted her as being too strong to stand back and let her politician husband call the shots and too weak to walk away when he was unfaithful.For the most part, she rallied against these judgments. Clinton’s pantsuits became her emblem — her way of reminding people that she was a first lady with a law degree, an independent career and, ultimately, her own agenda, which she proved when she left the White House as Senator of New York, not effectively jobless like her husband. So, when her official portrait was released in 2004, Clinton was of course depicted wearing her signature black pantsuit, another first for a first lady. Hillary Clinton greets supporters during a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, for her 2016 presidential run. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesShe took her signature look on the road again during her 2016 presidential campaign. In her book “What Happened” she explained: “As a woman running for President, I liked the visual cue that I was different from the men but also familiar.” The tactic didn’t pay off. Throughout one of the ugliest elections in US history, Clinton would come under repeated fire. This time she wasn’t charismatic enough, she was shady, she was “a liar.” But was the biggest issue, actually, the same one as always? Once again, her image didn’t fit the mold — because the president was supposed to be a man.Watch CNN Original Series “First Ladies” Sundays at 10 p.m. ET.

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