Michelle Wasn't the First First Lady To Take Part in Oscars

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 25 2013 1:45 PM

Michelle Obama Wasn't the First First Lady To Take Part in the Oscars. So Who Was?

Michelle Obama seen on screen at last night's Oscars awards show

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

You could almost hear the collective groan from certain corners of the Internet last night when Michelle Obama made her surprise appearance during the Oscars telecast to announce Argo as the year's Best Picture. Given that, it's probably worth reminding everyone that—regardless of what you thought about her specific performance—her presence on screen wasn't the first time a first lady has taken part in the Hollywood extravaganza.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

That honor—as far as my Internet sleuthing can find—goes to Laura Bush, who participated in this taped "What Do the Movies Mean to You?" segment for the 74th Academy Awards in 2002. (She shows up at around the 2:15 mark.)


At least two presidents have also gotten in on the Oscars fun. The first was FDR, who delivered a radio address from the White House during the 13th Academy Awards. Here's how the Los Angeles Times recapped his remarks at the time:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the 13th Academy Awards ceremony, addressing the nation and the crowd at the Biltmore Hotel in a six-minute direct-radio-line speech from the White House. Roosevelt was the first president to participate in the Academy Awards. He declined a special invitation to Los Angeles because of the world's political climate but made the most of his time as the opening act, chatting about the Lend-Lease Act and thanking Hollywood for raising money for defense and promoting the "American way of life" in its movies.

Ronald Reagan also taped his own video message for the 53rd Academy Awards in 1981 (which, you may remember, were actually postponed 24 hours in the wake of an assassination attempt on his life). I'm having a hard time finding an archived write-up of his intro, but here's how the New York Times previewed it a few weeks ahead of the show:

[N]ow that Mr. Reagan has moved on to another profession, he's been invited to appear on the Academy Awards program on March 30. The President will remain in the White House and tape a brief greeting to the audience at the Oscar ceremonies, and his words will be televised early in the awards show.
''President Reagan was once a member of our industry and it seemed fitting for him to join us,'' said Norman Jewison, producer of this year's show.

So while Michelle's surprise appearance was the first time a president or first lady was ever given the honors of opening an envelope and announcing the winner, she certainly wasn't the first to get in on the Oscars action.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.