I could easily attribute it to having grown up with images of the Queen everywhere, and of the men and women of Parliament dressed in full suits (pants for men, skirts for ladies). But when I heard (and then, worse, saw) Michelle Obama's official White House photo, which bares her sleeveless arms, I thought "Enough is enough!".
For every time and place, there is appropriate dress. More to the point, when it comes to leadership, it should represent not only its people, but the highest standard. As I quipped to my friend S this Shabbos, I want leadership to not be like me. In other words, I expect them to be better, to be la creme de la creme- the best the given group has to offer. Now, I can accept that Ms. Obama chooses to show her arms in press photos and so forth. After all, to do so represents Americans, who are known internationally for their very casual mode of dress. But in a photo that officially represents the highest office of the country that views itself as The Country in our 192 nation world? That I find inappropriate.
Then S shared with me a tidbit that had surprisingly missed the headlines. In his recent visit with British PM Gordon Brown, President Obama and PM Brown exchanged gifts. The British leader presented the President with two pens, both of which came from trees of great symbolic significance (I believe one was, in fact, from the same tree used to create the President's desk. You'll forgive my senior moment with the other pen.). The President reciprocated by presenting PM Brown with a collection of American classic films. My initial reaction? How tacky.
I get that the Obamas represent the Every American. But they are also meant to represent the grace and integrity of this country. Do screwball comedies convey that tone? Most certainly not. Do sleeveless arms, when every other woman leader/spouse of a leader in history has at least partially covered her arms, with a sweater or some other garment in full view? Most definitely not.
I suppose I am in the minority opinion here. We are, after all, in the age of "anything goes". But as much as I'm trying to stay neutral, and reserve judgement, it sure seems like the Obamas are trying their hardest to push the envelope. In the end, they may just end up being known for their rebellion and utter reworking of America- for the worse- despite all their rhetoric of hope.
So come on, Michelle. Just put that suit jacket on! The Queen would so very much approve.