Lynn professors offer tips to The First Lady in free, public service report

Watson and Kerker give historical insight and legal considerations to Mrs. Obama

Published Feb. 12, 2009

Professors in Lynn’s College of Arts and Sciences, Robert Watson and Sindee Kerker, wrote chapters in the most recent edition of “The Report to the First Lady.” The project, directed and edited by Watson, associate professor of American studies, features advice and essays by former first ladies, by former White House aides and by scholars. It is presented every four years at the time of the Inauguration to the new First Lady, the vice president’s wife, their staffers and the former First Ladies.

“This 200 page report,” said Watson, “is a free public service and professional service aimed at offering the incoming First Lady and her team valuable advice and insights on the challenges of office and history of her predecessors.” Watson’s chapter titled, “20 Tips: Walking in the Footsteps of History,” addresses 20 lessons which can be found in the study of the first 39 First Ladies and handful of nieces, sisters, and daughters that served as White House hostess.

“One thing that all First Ladies have in common – apart from being married to the President,” writes Watson, “is that they have been the targets of criticism. The First Ladyship is arguably the most demanding and challenging unpaid ‘job’ there is.” According to Watson, the Fist Lady should (among other things): expect criticism; practice making speeches; travel with and campaign for the President; make the White House the people’s house; beware of the President’s enemies; be an advocate for women; and be yourself – to a degree.

In a following chapter, Kerker, assistant professor of criminal justice, offers legal considerations for Mrs. Obama, the new First Lady. “A transition to the White House is an exciting time that will present many opportunities as well as challenges,” writes Kerker. “Undoubtedly, this transition will raise a number of questions, many of which will have some legal ramifications.” Throughout her chapter, titled “Legal Considerations for a New First Lady,” Kerker addresses questions including: Is the First Lady required to release to the public homemade videos of her daughters? Can the President appoint the First Lady to chair an advisory committee on health care reform? Must these meetings remain open to the public? Can the First Lady receive compensation for serving on an advisory committee? Can the First Lady seek outside employment and pursue her successful private career?

SourcesWatson is one of the foremost experts and authors on first ladies, presidents, and Florida politics and voting issues. Each year, Watson hosts the American Studies Series on campus that brings politicians and political issues to campus. In this role, Watson is frequently interviewed by local and national TV, print and radio media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, USA Today and The New York Times, addressing topics surrounding the first ladies of today, yesterday and tomorrow, how history may judge President Bush (and the war on terrorism) and how past White House scandals have not affected the nation. 

Kerker, a former prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for eight years who served on the prosecutors staff during O.J. Simpson’s trail, teaches criminal justice and law classes at Lynn. Each October, Kerker is involved with organizing events associated with National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) and she helps coordinate Lynn’s annual Safe Spring Break Carnival. This year, she led a group of students to Washington, D.C. for the Inauguration of President Obama during Lynn’s first J-term.