Annie Leibovitz captured Mrs. Obama in a simple ivory Carolina Herrera gown and Monique Péan earrings. The first lady posed in the grass, looking serene — like someone who is about to leave a stressful job for good.
In the accompanying article, Obama reflects on her time as first lady and what she’s done to help redefine the role. “I could have spent eight years doing anything, and at some level, it would have been fine,” she told the magazine. “I could have focused on flowers. I could have focused on decor. I could have focused on entertainment. Because any first lady, rightfully, gets to define her role. There’s no legislative authority; you’re not elected. And that’s a wonderful gift of freedom.”
With that freedom, the first lady took on issues ranging from support for military families to healthy eating, along with launching two education initiatives, Let Girls Learn (to address the obstacles that prevent young girls from quality education) and Reach Higher (which encourages students to complete their education past high school).
So now that her duty to her country is nearly done, what’s next for Michelle Obama? She says she can’t be too sure right now, but she does know she wants to continue to use her status and platform to help others. “I will always be engaged in some way in public service and public life,” she said. “The minute I left my corporate-law firm to work for the city, I never looked back. I’ve always felt very alive using my gifts and talents to help other people. I sleep better at night. I’m happier.”