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It is still less than a year since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States but the Obama Presidency seems, already, a long time ago. The tone of Washington politics, the atmosphere of American public discourse, has changed so fast and so dramatically that it is hard to think back to the eight years Barack and Michelle Obama occupied the White House. Debate and argument will rightly continue about Barack Obama’s record as President, his effectiveness as a leader, his success in implementing his agenda, and what his legacy is. His very election as President was a remarkable historic event in itself. Perhaps though it is the grace and dignity that he brought to the Presidency that was so remarkable when contrasted with what has come afterwards. At his side throughout was Michelle Obama.

Highly intelligent, charismatic and modest, Michelle Obama brought to the ill-defined but high profile role of First Lady a unique blend of humour, grace, determination and good judgement that enabled her to navigate eight years of intense scrutiny without ever once embarrassing herself, her husband or the United States. Perfectly capable of being an effective politician herself, she has always eschewed any thought of running for office. She never sought to hold a public role in policy making or White House work thereby avoiding the controversies that embroiled Hilary Clinton, Rosalyn Carter and Eleanor Roosevelt. Instead she chose causes and campaigns to support and encourage, champion and work for. Principally she promoted girls education, tackling obesity – notably through the White House vegetable garden, and supporting military families. Michelle Obama encouraged fitness, responsible loving parenting and was a role model for working mothers and professional women.

‘Chasing Light’ is a beautiful and generous collection of 150 photographs chronicling a four year period of Michelle Obama’s period as First lady. It provides a rare insight behind the scenes and a glimpse of the range of her activity. Of course the photographs have been carefully selected and presented. It is not a candid behind-the-scenes book. There are no pictures of Michelle looking sad, or miserable, tired or weary. The book does not give any insight into the private family life of the Obamas as they navigated their way through their time in the White House. What ‘Chasing Light’ is is a reminder of a time not so long ago when a confident, elegant, intelligent and energetic First Lady complimented her husband’s Presidency in a way that enhanced his Presidency, and brought great credit to the White House and the United States.

Produced in time for the Christmas Season, Amanda Lucidon’s book would make a beautiful present and an inspiring read for anyone interested in seeing how it is possible for someone to occupy a very public leadership role in the modern era and do it well.

Published by Sphere – £20

Mark square bw