DC Longs for Obama Amid Health Crisis

Former first lady Michelle Obama visits third-graders at Ferebee-Hope Community School in Washington last spring. (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

Michelle Obama’s voice on a robocall triggers a wave of longing in D.C.

“I got the call!”

“Anyone else get a personal call?”

“Received the Michelle Obama recorded call this morning encouraging me to stay home, and I wanted to cry,” tweeted D.C. native Alex Kennedy.

Residents in the nation’s capital are getting robocalls from “forever FLOTUS” — as she’s often known in this overwhelmingly Democratic town — and they’re losing it.

A call from Michelle triggers intense emotions here — a reminder of what it felt like when the country’s first African American president moved into a white-columned mansion built by enslaved people.

Now, as the current occupant of the White House batters us with his Twitter tantrums and responds to a deadly pandemic by musing about disinfectant injections, the District pines for that pre-Trump period. In a time of crazy uncertainty, even a prerecorded call from the former first lady urging residents to stay home and giving tips on coronavirus testing feels like a comforting whiff of a bygone era.

“Guys, I just got a voicemail from a Michelle Obama robocall, and I think I’m going to save it forever,” tweeted D.C. resident Katie Connelly.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine told The Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil that the prerecorded call was like “a warm cup of coffee and a good hug.”

The District can’t quit Michelle. It’s more than quarantine fatigue and drunk-dialing an ex.

Our longing for Michelle is really our longing for a time when leaders tried to reassure, to inspire, to lead.

The buzz around the robocalls, along with Michelle Obama’s live-streamed story-time readings and next week’s Netflix documentary based on her memoir, “Becoming,” makes it clear how much the District misses her — misses them.

The Obamas taught a master class in dignity and civility

The eight years that the Obamas made history in the White House had a Kennedy-esque Camelot feel. Only Camelot 2 was far more inclusive.

The same Ivy League, country club Georgetown that was enthralled with the young and dynamic Kennedys also embraced the Obamas. But go visit any home in black D.C. and you’ll see more Obama portraits on the walls than you’d see crosses in a monastery.

The District — a place once known as Chocolate City — absolutely adores Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha.

And they are the first presidential family to remain in the city after their term ended since a dying Woodrow Wilson almost 100 years ago.

So hearing their names during this crisis — hearing Michelle’s voice on the phone from the Kalorama mansion where her family is quarantined — is powerful.

The Obamas took some flak from conservative bellowers who reported that the former president played a socially isolated game of golf at an exclusive Virginia country club last weekend.

But aside from a private golf trip, they seem to be doing isolation like the rest of still-working white-collar Washington.

The girls are home from college and in their own rooms doing online classes. Michelle and Barack are on and off conference calls all day. And they’re all trying to stick to some kind of a routine, Michelle told Ellen DeGeneres in a call DeGeneres recorded and posted online.

Michelle Obama couldn’t be more different from Melania Trump, who once wore a jacket that said “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” on her way to visit shelters for separated children at the border.

Trump won just 4 percent of the District’s vote in the 2016 presidential election.

The Trumps are moving into a city that doesn’t want them

And even after the election, a city used to diplomatically hosting presidents, red and blue, greeted the Trump family with an unmitigated grimace.

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