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Clear and Present

The eyes have it.

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Something about Michelle Obama’s eyes suggests the presence of a soul that’s not only at peace but profoundly amused to find itself living in the body–and the world–that it’s lucky enough to inhabit. Smiling at us from the front pages or the TV screen or from the stylized, glamorous ether of a magazine cover, our new First Lady’s eyes are not only conventionally beautiful but remarkably expressive. We may find ourselves remembering what children instinctively know: Ignore what the grown-ups are saying and check out their eyes if you want to find out if they’re telling the truth. For as long as I can remember, the eyes of our First Ladies have seemed clouded with the effort to conceal the woman behind them, a woman imprisoned inside a flawed marriage or an uncongenial role and desperately tapping out a coded distress call of betrayal or frustration. But there’s nothing fake or studied in the responsive warmth with which Michelle Obama regards her husband and daughters, her mother, the White House staff, the South Carolina schoolgirl who sat beside her during the president’s speech to Congress. If transparency is the new watchword of the Obama administration, it is reflected in her eyes.


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