TIME Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Unveiled in Saudi: A Style Statement, Not a Political Statement

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, right, in Riyadh, Jan. 27, 2015.
Carolyn Kaster—AP President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, right, in Riyadh, Jan. 27, 2015.

Correction appended Jan. 29

There is nothing quite as contentious as the headscarf issue when it comes to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, at least where western observers are concerned. So when U.S. first lady Michelle Obama went to pay her respects after the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh with her hair uncovered, social media lit up with both praise and opprobrium. “Michelle Obama shouldve stayed in Airforce One as a sign of boycott rather than flouting rules of another country #Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled” tweeted @Random_Arora. “She was a guest in another country &culture. She should make no judgements, but show proper respect at a funeral.2 #Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled,” wrote @MonaBadah.

The thing is, Obama wasn’t really flouting any rules when she chose not to wear a headscarf. While foreign female visitors to the Kingdom are expected to wear long, loose fitting garments as a sign of respect — Obama obliged with a long coat over dark trousers — the headscarf is optional. The muttawa, or religious police, might growl menacingly, but there is nothing legally wrong with going uncovered for non-Muslims. Doing so may draw unwanted attention, and the ire of conservatives, but most Saudis treat the headscarf as a sign of piety, or at least feigned piety for public consumption.

When it comes to women’s rights in the kingdom, the headscarf is the least of any Saudi activist’s worries. She is more likely to be concerned about the right to drive, the right to vote, the right to keep her children after asking for divorce and the right to travel, marry and work without express permission from a male guardian. So maybe if Obama had driven to the funeral herself, it would have been worth a stir. Instead, she did as several other notable female visitors to the Kingdom, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice among them, have done before: dressing respectfully without compromising their own personal sense of style. It’s not like Mr. Obama decided to don a thobe and shemagh for the occasion.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterised Obama’s visit to Riyadh. It was to offer condolences for the Saudi King.

TIME India

See President Obama Attend India’s Republic Day Parade

President Barack Obama joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his country's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Obama is the first U.S. President to be a guest of honor at the annual festivity.

TIME India

India Pulls Out All the Stops for Obama at Republic Day Parade

Indian soldiers march in formation down the ceremonial boulevard Rajpath during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26, 2015.
Prakash Singh—AFP/Getty Images Soldiers march in formation down the ceremonial boulevard Rajpath during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 26, 2015.

One of the South Asian nation's biggest occasions was made even more momentous by the choice of chief guest

Gloomy skies and a steady downpour were not enough to dampen New Delhi’s spirits on Monday, as thousands turned up to watch U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle and a sizable American delegation witness a display of India’s military might, economic achievements and diversity at the country’s 66th Republic Day parade.

Obama became the first U.S. President ever to attend the annual event, an invite for which is considered one of the greatest honors India bestows on foreign dignitaries. The President rolled up to the viewing platform in his armored limousine, known as The Beast, eschewing the tradition of riding in the Indian president’s vehicle over security concerns. He then took his place between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he announced a “breakthrough” on a civil nuclear deal Sunday evening, and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (whose choice of headgear caused a bit of a flutter on social media).

While the U.S. has become India’s biggest military supplier in recent times, the South Asian nation’s armed forces have traditionally been equipped with Soviet hardware, a fact Obama was reminded of as Russian-made T-90 and T-72 tanks rolled down the main stretch, along with a mobile launcher for the BrahMos missile jointly developed by India and Russia.

The parade-ending flyovers by the Indian Air Force did have American P-8 Poseidon naval planes, and although these too were flanked by Russian MIG-29 and SU-30 fighter jets, officials on both sides expressed hope and confidence in the 10-year bilateral defense agreement that Obama and Modi renewed on Sunday.

“None of these things should be considered small in terms of just what it means for working together as two defense industrial bases and what we can share with each other,” Phillip Reiner, Obama’s top South Asia advisor, told the New York Times.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Indian lawmaker Baijayant Panda agreed, even though other analysts remained skeptical but hopeful.

Between the displays of military might came a series of marches — including multiple all-female contingents and even a camel troop — followed by floats and dance performances representing various Indian states, as well as government initiatives like Modi’s “Make in India” and “Swacch Bharat” (Clean India) campaigns.

Finally, there were the motorcycles of the Border Security Force. Known as “Janbaz,” or Dare Devils, they showcased feats of amazing balance, focus and agility — all while tapping on laptops and dressed as peacocks and lotuses.

Judging by Obama’s reaction, one of his most animated during the course of the parade, they got the White House seal of approval.

TIME

The New Path to College Admission

One first-generation college student's inspiring story

On Tuesday night, Michelle Obama was joined by a handful of people to watch the President’s State of the Union address in person. From astronaut Scott Kelly to Alan Gross, the foreign aid worker who was recently released after five years of imprisonment in Cuba, each of the White House’s guests personifies a story the President would like to tell about America.

In 2014, Estiven Rodriguez was the author of one of those stories. Then a high-school senior from New York City, Rodriguez was recognized by Obama in the State of the Union address for arriving in United States, the son of a Dominican factory worker, unable to speak a word of English and going on to become a first-generation college student.

“Imagine not being able to speak up for yourself, communicate and truly make the right choices,” Rodriguez wrote in an essay that helped him earn a spot at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “I was that middle-schooler who easily could have fallen into the wrong path.”

In the video above, TIME followed Rodriguez on his journey to the State of the Union.

TIME State of the Union 2015

The State of the Union Has Already Given 2016 Republicans a Headache

Rep. Steve King speaks with reporters at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 8, 2014.
Tom Williams—AP Rep. Steve King speaks with reporters at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 8, 2014.

President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech was still hours away from being delivered when it created a headache for likely Republican presidential candidates.

In a tweet posted around 6 p.m., Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who takes a hard-line stance against illegal immigration, called one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests “a deportable.”

King was referring to Ana Zamora, a 21-year-old college senior from Dallas who benefited from Obama’s 2012 executive order allowing people brought to the United States illegally as children to defer deportation. That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, upset many congressional Republicans, who voted narrowly on a symbolic effort to overturn it last week, but it is widely popular among Latino voters.

It’s hardly unusual for King to make controversial statements about immigration, but the timing is trickier. On Saturday, he’ll be hosting a number of likely Republican presidential candidates at the Iowa Freedom Summit, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

They should expect to be asked about the phrase “a deportable” when they arrive in Iowa

TIME White House

Here’s Michelle Obama’s State of the Union Guest List

Michelle Obama
Jessica Hill—AP First lady Michelle Obama speaks to supporters during a rally in New Haven, Conn on Oct. 30, 2014.

The White House just released the list, which includes astronaut and TIME cover star Scott Kelly

The White House has released its list of the 22 special guests who will be seated in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The list includes high-profile names such as astronaut and TIME magazine cover star Scott Kelly, who will spend a year in space, and the president and CEO of CVS Health, Larry J. Merlo.

Other guests include Captain Phillip C. Tingirides of the Los Angeles Police Department; Catherine Pugh, Maryland Senate Majority Leader; Kathy Pham, a computer scientist with the United States Digital Service; and Alan Gross, a USAID sub-contractor who was reunited with his family after five years of imprisonment in Cuba the same day the U.S. announced it would begin to normalize diplomatic relations with the country.

TIME 2016 Election

Huckabee Knocks the Obamas for Encouraging Their Daughters to Like Beyoncé

Darren McCollester—Getty Images Mike Huckabee speaks at the Freedom Summit on April 12, 2014 in New Hampshire.

Parenting advice and criticism from a potential 2016 presidential candidate

First, it was Beyoncé and Jay Z up for scolding by conservative Republican Mike Huckabee. Now it’s Barack and Michelle Obama‘s turn.

In an interview about his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, Huckabee tells PEOPLE he doesn’t get how the Obamas can encourage their daughters’ love for Beyoncé. Especially, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister says, if the president and first lady ever actually listened to the lyrics to – or seen a performance of Beyoncé’s steamy “Drunk in Love.”

The Obamas “are excellent and exemplary parents in many ways,” Huckabee says.

“That’s the whole point. I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything – how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school and making sure they’re kind of sheltered and shielded from so many things – and yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé, who has sort of a regular key to the door” of the White House.

Beyoncé, Jay Z and their daughter, Blue Ivy, were at the White House last January for Mrs. Obama’s exclusive 50th birthday bash and the first lady has taken her girls to several Beyoncé concerts.

The singer, criticized in Huckabee’s book for “obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics” and dance moves “best left for the privacy of her bedroom,” was also featured prominently at the president’s second Inauguration in 2013.

The first lady’s office had no response to Huckabee’s comments.

This article originally appeared on People.com, read the whole story at People.

TIME White House

Here’s Barack and Michelle Obama Bringing In The New Year

A candid moment for the President and First Lady

The First Couple brought in the new year at home in a quiet, relaxed fashion. But the White House’s official Twitter account did provide the public with a glimpse of the celebrations.

The first tweet of the new year shows the president and his first lady sharing a tender moment.

TIME Social Media

Michelle Obama Tweeted the Ultimate Throwback Thursday Christmas Photo

Featuring Michelle, Barack and his awesomely dated sweater vest

Michelle Obama killed two Twitter birds with one stone — a Christmas post and a #tbt post — when she shared an old photo of her, Barack and his awesomely dated sweater vest on Thursday. (If Malia Obama hasn’t already discovered that sweater in a closet and worn it to an ugly sweater Christmas party, it’s only a matter of time.)

The photo shows off the couple’s Christmas tree-decorating skills in the back, though FLOTUS and POTUS have since moved on to much, much bigger trees.

TIME White House

Obama Recalls Trouble Getting a Cab Before He Was President

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The First Couple opens up about racism

Before they lived behind the White House gates, Barack and Michelle Obama dealt with the day-to-day racism experienced by black families across America, the First Couple told People in an exclusive new interview.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” Michelle Obama said. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

Read more at People

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