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Mrs. Obama’s role at the Oscars

Courtland Milloy [“Michelle Obama’s Oscars appearance was an unbecoming frivolity,” Metro, Feb. 27] needs to update his views on the current struggles among African Americans and for black women. Yes, we would be nowhere without the strength of the Sojourner Truths and Rosa Parkses of the world. But the struggle has changed, and Mrs. Obama’s appearance at the Academy Awards is an example of a key step in the modern struggle.

Mr. Milloy seems to argue that only a few activities are worthy of emulation. He overlooks crucial points by mocking the first lady’s health campaign: Too many children cannot focus in school because of poor eating habits; sedentary lifestyles cause diabetes and high blood pressure in children and adults; and too many African Americans are dying of cancer at younger ages. It’s hard to achieve a PhD in a STEM field if you’re too unhealthy to study or practice your craft.

It’s also hard to overstate the importance of a black woman interacting with Hollywood in any role that indicates “power.” Too few African American actors can get good roles — particularly women, and especially dark-skinned women. So for young black girls to see the first lady, as well as Shirley Bassey, Jennifer Hudson, Halle Berry, Octavia Spencer and others, moving about in that environment speaks volumes. Movies are a multibillion-dollar industry that influences the world. We need to keep taking strategic steps to increase our presence there.

We advocate for our community any time we remind society that we can go to Ivy League schools, raise healthy children and, yes, do the Dougie. We’ve fought for years for the freedom to be ourselves. Let’s not pigeonhole ourselves now.

Jennifer P. Gore, Silver Spring

When I read about Michelle Obama’s appearance at the Academy Awards, I was struck by the historical parallels. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus, observing the slow death of Roman culture, described the descent as follows: “In place of the philosopher the singer is called in, and in place of the orator the teacher of stagecraft, and while the libraries are shut up forever like tombs, water-organs are manufactured and lyres as large as carriages.”

The Obamas did not initiate this worship of celebrity and descent into triviality, but they have taken it to the next level, aided and abetted by a fawning media. We are forced to endure the president and first lady emulating celebrity behavior on late-night television. It is quite sad.

An era that began with such promise may very well end with the president accepting a position at ESPN and the first lady hosting “Entertainment Tonight.” This is not the stuff of Lincoln.

Robert F. Reklaitis, Bethesda

Kathleen Parker mentioned several reasons why reactions to Michelle Obama’s Academy Award presentation have been mixed [“Madonna Obama,” op-ed, Feb. 27]. Unfortunately, she missed possibly the most important one: the staging of soldiers in the background. Soldiers are not props to be used to enhance someone’s image. This disgraceful display speaks volumes of how little the White House understands military culture and tradition.

Kim T. Chapman, Crofton

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