There seem to be more and more talk regarding the role of first lady. Whether there should be a job description and whether or not she should receive a salary. The latest was a column in the Spokesman Review by Lauren Stiller Rikleen . Ms. Rikleen is a partner in a law firm and executive director of the Bowdich Institute for Women's Success. I was pretty sure I knew where it was going before I read it!
This is one of those times I find myself smack in the middle of the generational divide! I don't think there should be either.
How can a job description be written for a job that has no boundaries? The most obvious responsibility is the one of official hostess. To aid in that undertaking there is a complete staff including an officer of protocol. Beyond that the position is whatever the first lady would like it to be.
I find it interesting that universities are now compensating the wives of their presidents for the time and talent brought to the position. Here's where I most likely differ with the younger generation. That there is a marriage is by choice. A partnership. One feels obligated, I'm sure, to carry out the social responsibilities, but I'm not sure I would want my child's tuition money going to the social niceties rather than qualified instructors and crucial course work. Especially when considering the financial stress universities are now suffering.
On the Presidential level, our money pays for all of it. Everything from the first lady's social secretary to the White House staff.
All of her expenses are paid for with tax dollars. Transportation. Lodging. All of it.
I guess I'm looking at this from a less than privileged point of view. Even at our level, I as spouse, had social obligations because of my husband's job. No one would have dreamed of suggesting I should be paid for my time dining with clients neither of us much cared for, or entertaining a spouse while the men conducted their business, nor compensate me for the time taken away from my own responsibilities for just the comings and goings. If he travelled abroad and I accompanied him my expenses came out of our own pocket. And I surely did not have a staff to educate me as to how to behave in China!
Times are changing. The role of first lady is also changing. But no two are the same. That they choose to do good works and make an impact that would otherwise be much more difficult is laudable. But to put a price tag on it just doesn't seem right. It's part of being the spouse of the President.
It's bad enough the Congress has legislated themselves automatic pay raises. It's our money. It seems to me we should have a say as to whether or not they deserve one. To put a dollar figure on the first lady's role, to me, seems to diminish the honor of being in that position.
Since, again, it would be our tax dollars, just what criteria should be used - and would we have a say? Or would it be a form of pork on the Presidential level!