The Cycle | February 15, 2013
>>> trend setters, fashion icons and civil rights leaders . i'm not talking about "the cycle."
>> there are few people that history looks upon more fondly than the first ladies of the united states . so it's no wonder that c-span has decided to focus on them in their roles in its newest series.
>> we can weigh from the needs of others. we align ourselves with those forces which are bringing about this suffering.
>> the white house is a bully pulpit and you taught to take advantage of it.
>> they are in many cases quite frankly more interesting as human beings than their husbands, if only because they are not first and foremost defined and consequently limited by political ambition.
>> why is it that americans have long been so fascinated by the first lady? how has the position evolved over time ? joining us is mark vargas, executive producer of the feature on the first ladies . there's a lot of directions to go in here. when i think of the modern role of the first lady, i guess i think of hillary clinton ref revolutionized the role because she took such a hands on role. he deputized her as she took the lead role in health care reform . he talked about you vote for me, you're get it would go for the price of one. at least back then hillary clinton emerged as a very polarizing figure. i guess when you look at the first lady, how comfortable do you think americans are with the idea in general of a first lady who plays a very active role in the day-to-day governing of the country?
>> you know, i think it's changing because when hillary clinton went through that, there obviously was a backlash. we just did a poll and one of the questions was how many americans think it's okay for first ladies to use their role for political purposes? surpri surprisingly 53% of americans now say it's okay. so i think the role is evolving. plenty of first ladies look back to prior first ladies to gain guidance.
>> jacqueline kennedy , super conservative, very stylish. what do you think of her place in the pantheon?
>> she's the first first lady to have a press secretary. that tells you something. when you take a look at first ladies , they are on the forefront of obviously fashion from time to time butch th they have a lot of influence with their president husbands. i think the fact that she has a press secretary for the first time tells you something about where the media was where at that point and where women were at at that point.
>> one of my favorite people historically period is eleanor roosevelt . i think she's so incredible, activist in her own right, even before she became first lady. she was at first depressed about being the sort of hostess and the wife and playing that role so she continued doing what she was doing, she wrote a syndicated column, she gave press conferences and she was the first first lady to speak at her husband's convention and after her husband passed, she had an active role in public life and she actually disagreed with her husband, something we still don't see first ladies do. how did she broke the mold of first ladies ?
>> you're right, she's the first first lady to hold press conferences. the interesting thing is only women reporters are allowed to be at the press conference. the stodgy owners of newspapers have to hire women reporters. if you look at where you all are, maybe it doesn't happen as quickly. she certainly was a trend setter and she was one of those first first ladies to really get out in the television era, she's using the media in radio shows and addresses to the nation as well.
>> mark, i've got to be honest. it's always seemed as an unenviable role to me. it is a job full with expectations and schedules all because of some dude you married 20 years ago. i'm not sure these women get enough credit. they're doing all of the things that they do from charity to policy making in some cases while raising kids. let me play this sound from michelle obama .
>> you come into this house and there is so much to do. there's so much coming at you that there's no time to think or reflect or do anything except get through each day.
>> do we appreciate these women enough, mark?
>> well, personally as a father of two daughters, i appreciate them greatly but i don't know if we do. you really think about what's going on in the white house and why are reality tv shows so popular now? well, you take rich or famous people and put them inside some type of bubble and dysfunction happens. it's easy to identify with what a president goes through. but everyone's got family. it's amazing they are out there and they're as busy as they are as michelle obama said but they really are the ones who have to do the parenting. obviously the president is involved as well but to me that's an interesting aspect to the series as well as, the families inside the white house .
>> we're always talking about hillary clinton running for president in 2016 . if she wins, we'll have our first first gentleman.
>> first dude.
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