The thought keeps coming to mind: First lady Michelle Obama is a natural to champion the 1,700 D.C. schoolchildren from low-income families whose tickets out of failing public schools — scholarships to attend a school of their choice — are on the hit list of congressional Democrats. One reason is Mrs. Obama’s gift for inspiring young folks, as when she recently welcomed dozens of local kids to the White House.
The scene: the East Room. The date: Feb. 18. The occasion: a visit by 180 D.C. students.
The first lady spoke after the students heard encouragement to apply themselves from Stephen W. Rochon, chief usher of the White House, a retired Coast Guard rear admiral appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in 2007. Adm. Rochon is the first black to hold the job, which puts the New Orleans native in charge of the residential staff and operations.
This is part of what Mrs. Obama said, as reported by DeNeen L. Brown of The Washington Post:
Like Barack and I, the admiral didn’t rise to his position because of wealth or because he had a lot of material resources. See, we were all very much kids like you guys. We just figured out one day that our fate was in our own hands. We made decisions to listen to our parents and to our teachers, and to work very, very hard for everything in life. And then we worked harder any time anybody doubted us.”
The White House, the first lady added, should be a place of “learning and for sharing new and different ideas, sharing new forms of art and culture, and history and different perspectives.”
Now that sounds like a mom who understands why other parents are so grateful for “new and different ideas” such as school choice. After all, private and charter schools — and vouchers such as those in the endangered D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program – allow for competition that challenges the public schools, in the first lady’s words, to “work very, very hard” to achieve excellence.
It’s difficult to picture Michelle Obama — or Admiral Rochon, for that matter — standing idly by as union leaders and politicians overrule the parents and teachers to whom these kids listen.