This past February President Obama made a historic visit to neighboring Canada. Pictures from this trip revealed a beautiful, stately black woman by his side. No, it was not Michelle Obama or any of the women on his staff. This was a woman that most of us had surprisingly never seen before. She was Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s first black Governor General. Her impressive background, important position and charitable commitment all help beg the question: why have we not heard more about this remarkable woman?
Born in Port au Prince, Haiti Michaëlle Jean and her family immigrated to Canada in 1968 to escape from the dictatorship of François Duvalier’s regime. Fluent in five languages, this university lecturer and former journalist not only built a successful career at Radio-Canada and CBC Newsworld, but also worked tirelessly for eight years establishing emergency shelters for battered women throughout Quebec and other geographies throughout Canada. In September 2005, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Governor General of Canada. In this role, she is considered the “de facto” head of state, is the commander-in-chief of the Canadian forces, and represents Canada on State visits. Given Her Excellency’s role as Governor General, not to mention wife, mother, social activist and moral authority, it’s a wonder how she does it all. “Who would have thought that the commander-in-chief of the United States and the commander-in-chief of Canada would be of African decent and at the same time?” These were the words exchanged by her and President Obama upon meeting each other during President Obama’s visit to Canada earlier this year. Indeed…who would have thought?
Listen to this interview with Michaelle Jean on NPR’s Tell Me More.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com.