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KFAW Summer Seminar “The Meanimg of Michelle Obama: The Evolving Role of the First Lady” (August 10, 2009)

 On August 10th, KFAW co-organized its summer seminar together with the Public Affairs Section of the Consulate of the United States, Fukuoka, Japan (Fukuoka American Center). 170 audience members (a number far exceeding the expected level) gathered from Fukuoka and other prefectures to eagerly listen to the lecture and actively participate in the Q.&A. session.

 The lecture was presented by Ms. Liza Mundy, a staff writer for The Washington Post and author of Michelle Obama, a biography of Mrs. Barack Obama published in October 2008. During her visit to Japan, Ms. Mundy gave lectures only in Tokyo and Kitakyushu.

1.Date August 10, 2009 (Monday) 18:30~20:00
2.Venue Kitakyushu Municipal Gender Equality Center “MOVE”
3.Number of attendees 170
4.Organizer KFAW
Fukuoka American Center, Consulate of the United States, Fukuoka
5.Lecturer Ms. Lisa Mundy (Staff writer for The Washington Post / Media Fellow, Japan Society)
Ms. Lisa Mundy

 At her lecture for the summer seminar, Ms. Mundy stated presently Mrs. Obama is even more popular than President Obama. In a recent poll in the United States, Ms. Mundy said, over 80% of the public stated that they liked the First Lady. Ms. Mundy also remarked that Mrs. Obama is becoming increasingly popular among Republican women. The First Lady, is particularly eager to support relatives of military personnel as well as various services and volunteer activities. Mrs. Obama also wants to further open the White House to the general public.

 Mundy also noted Mrs. Obama’s efforts to seek an optimum work-life balance. Mrs. Obama well understands many women’s struggles to maintain good work-life balance since she herself raised two daughters while her husband, Barack, was busy with political activities. When many schools closed due to the spread of H1N1 influenza, many workers found it difficult to take a pay leave. Mrs. Obama believes that more parents (either father or mother) should be allowed to take paid leaves when their children become sick. Under the current severe economic situation, however, realizing her vision seems to be difficult, Mundy stated.

Q.&A. session

 As a leading female journalist in the United States, Mundy also referred to her own battles to maintain a good work-life balance. She concluded her lecture by stating that the Obama administration is well aware of the problems confronting working parents. Mundy also emphasized that the administration is committed to changing conventional systems in a direction desired by the public.

 The Q.&A. session lasted 45 minutes. Topics included the recent increase in the number of women with occupations, desired governmental support for working parents and the personal experiences of audience members. In the uestionnaire distributed immediately after the program, many audience members stated that the seminar provided them with a good opportunity to reconsider their own work-life balance, following Mrs. Obama’s model. Participants also stated that after the seminar they felt more affinity with Mrs. Obama. Mundy strongly encouraged audience members who are employed to make known their demands and opinions at their respective workplaces. This message truly made the lecture even more impressive and rewarding.