First Ladies Man - Andrew Och
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Washington Post Article On First Ladies Man

Washington Post Conversation With The First Ladies Man

Who’d make a better first spouse, Melania or Bill?

Read entire article on washingtonpost.com

By Sadie Dingfelder August 4 at 6:00 AM

When you cast your vote for president in November, don't forget that you're also voting for the president's spouse, says Andrew Och, author of "Unusual for Their Time: On the Road With America's First Ladies." Och, who will discuss first ladies at a Smithsonian Associates talk Wednesday, says that even those first ladies who stay out of the limelight help shape their partner's policies. "The first lady is arguably the most powerful unelected woman in the world," he says. "Even Bess Truman, one of the quietest and seemingly uninvolved first ladies, was in on some very serious military and political decisions." We asked Och which potential first spouse, Bill Clinton or Melania Trump, would be better suited to the various tasks that traditionally fall to the first lady — or gentleman — of the United States. S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW; Wed., 6:45 p.m., $30.

Setting fashion trends

A former model with international flair, "Melania Trump would just crush it," Och says.

Since he's an older guy with an unremarkable dressing style, Bill Clinton is unlikely to inspire new directions in menswear, Och says.

Increasing spouse's likability

Melania has the potential to help improve her husband's image as a misogynist, but Donald Trump's tendency to publicly objectify women gets in the way, Och says.

Bill is seen as an affable, fun guy. That could help Hillary Clinton, who is often viewed as tough and unrelatable, Och says. "People might say, ‘You know what? Bill's a good guy, so maybe Hillary's not so bad after all.' "

Picking out china patterns

Melania, who has said she would be a traditional first lady, would have no problem taking on assignments like china design or choosing invitation colors, Och says.

Bill might excel at designing tableware, but if he were caught doing it, the media would make fun of him mercilessly, Och says: "It would be seen as a major demotion from his former job as president."

Entertaining foreign dignitaries' spouses

Melania, who speaks five languages, would excel at showing around the partners of foreign presidents, Och says.

Given Bill's past scandals, this could get awkward, Och says: "When I point this out, a lot of people tell me, ‘I wouldn't leave my wife with Bill Clinton.' "

Advocating for a cause

Melania would probably pick a noncontroversial issue, like breast cancer awareness or the Red Cross, Och says. "Since she's from a war-torn country, she could also do international work with refugees," he says.

With more power and influence than your average first spouse, Bill could take on controversial issues such as Black Lives Matter, Och says. "Bill Clinton has already shown that he can reach out across the aisle," he adds.

Deciding on state dinner menus

"I think Melania Trump would probably be better at putting together a nice meal," Och says.

"Bill went from eating Quarter Pounders with cheese to being a vegetarian. So there's not a lot of middle ground," Och says.

  • 'Unusual For Their Time' Cover
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    Andy Och Image

Andrew Och is an Award Winning TV producer who has traveled the world in search of provocative stories. In 2012, He began his adventure as he traversed America for over a year documenting the lives of every *First Lady of the United States.* The *C-SPAN* series, *First Ladies: Influence and Image* aired from 2013-2014 to great acclaim and revealed the untold stories that helped shaped America.

Testimonials & Endorsements

  • Rockville, MD

    Andrew Och truly does make history come alive. While listening to his presentation, I felt like I was in the same room as Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. His passion, energy and knowledge are impressive.

    Jodi Finkelstein, Executive Director Montgomery County Commission for Women

  • Greensboro, NC

    "Andy Och knows how to tell a good story that also happens to be good history. Our Greensboro audience enjoyed his visit and appreciated his take on a First Lady born here – Dolley Madison – and many others."

    "Looking forward to Vol. 2,"

    Linda Evans
    Community Historian
    Greensboro [NC] Historical Museum

  • Annapolis, MD

    "You were absolutely fabulous. I have had so much positive feedback. The group loved your presentation and look forward to having you speak at a future time. Your presentation was one of the best the club has had over the years. I look forward to the publication of your book. I had to force myself to get off your website, because I had other scheduled tasks I needed to attend to this afternoon. I will be going back when I can spend more time exploring it in depth."

    Barbara Hitchings, President American Antiques Arts Association of Annapolis

  • Fremont, OH

    "Och has a really fun way of describing these ladies and their relationships in a way that makes you relate to them."

    Kristina Smith, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

  • Mercersburg, PA

    "Quite the entertaining speaker and the expert on first ladies and hostesses".

    Tom Suddeth - Mercersburg, PA Historical Society - Founder

  • Youngstown, OH

    Thanks for a great presentation on our nation's First Ladies. *You told so many interesting stories, we learned a lot of things we hadn't known about a number of First Ladies, you answered everyone's questions knowledgeably, and it was clear to all of us that you're an expert on the topic and passionate about this project.* Great stage presence, too. *I strongly encourage anybody out there who's interested in **Andy's First Ladies Man project to figure out how to bring him to your town hall, school, library, or museum. Wonderful stuff! *

    Dr. Jay L. Gordon
    Youngstown State University

  • North Platte, NE

    Andrew Och, the First Ladies Man "embodies what our organization is all about - entertainment and education"

    Sue Huebner, President North Platte Town Hall Lecture Series

  • St. Pete FL

    Andrew Och I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciate your work and postings about the First Ladies. They are so well written and share just enough that you want to learn about them. I share them with my daughters, who are 10 and 7, and they enjoy them as well. I look forward to reading them everyday. Thank you!!

    Lynnette Valle, Florida Mother of Two

  • I've read a score of books on America's First Ladies; however, none from this most unique and interesting vantage point. Half way through the introduction, I knew I wanted to take this journey, crisscrossing the United States, with Andy as my tour guide. With Mr. Och's marvelous story telling ability and extensive research, he transports the reader in time, making history come alive to meet these remarkable women—the person, not her celebrity or fame. A must read for male, female, young and old alike. Be it a professional, novice or skeptic, all will enjoy this delicious adventure. I devoured each chapter and am excitedly awaiting Volume II.

    • Jacqueline Berger
    • National Speaker and Author on America's First Ladies
    • "The First Ladies Lady"
    • www.FirstLadiesLady.com
  • From spouses who bankrolled their husbands' entire political careers to those who closely guarded potentially damaging family secrets, first ladies have consistently laid the groundwork for the most consequential presidencies in American history. Andy Och makes the case for the personal influence of first ladies in a fun and entertaining manner.

    - Lauren A. Wright, PhD, Author of "On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today."

  • No doubt about it! Andy Och is unquestionably the First Lady's Man! Armed with little more than a camera, an open mind toward women and history, and a super imagination which combines all three elements, he has created an epic part-travelogue, part-history, and totally delightful foray into the lives, the times and the places where an amazing assortment of women who became First Lady can take their place on a stage all by themselves!

    • Feather Schwartz Foster
    • Author of Mary Lincoln’s flannel Pajamas and Other Stories from the First Ladies’ Closet
  • Would have loved being on Andy's fabulous roadshow journey following the interesting society of First Ladies from Martha to Michelle. His insider true stories made them come alive! Our club membership awaits this much anticipated book!

    • Susanne Bradley, Vice President
    • American Antique Arts Assoc. of Annapolis
  • Andy Och has given us a fascinating book that is part travelogue, part collective biography. The result of his time spent on the road is a unique history of the First Ladies that will undoubtedly appeal to the broadest audience.

    • Dr. Christopher Leahy, Professor of History, Keuka College, Kueka Park, NY
    • Sharon Williams Leahy, Founder, HistoryPreserve.com
  • "Andy Och's exploration of the lives of America's First Ladies is as rich and varied as the lives of those women themselves, and as unexpected. His adventurous, even picaresque, experience with the diverse people and places that enhance our appreciation of these extraordinary women, is both informative and engaging, giving us an important behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be on the front line of history in modern America."

    • Taylor Stoermer
    • Fellow of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Instructor of Public History at Harvard University
  • From the very first page you know this is not going to be "just" another biographical overview of the First Ladies. In fact the very first page tugs you into the stories… the stories of what made the First Ladies "unusual for their time;" the stories of people, places and objects associated with these remarkable women; and the stories behind Och's transformation from documentarian to historian because of what he learned. Andrew Och's book is in part history text and travelogue, but refreshingly written from Och's insightful, and frequently humorous perspective. Although written in an easy storytelling manner, the book is rich with new historical detail about the First Ladies. Their lives in the White House are important, but Och also focuses on what came before and after proving their consequence as partners for their presidential husbands and icons for our nation. Thankfully this is only volume one, we will anticipate and look forward to many more stories as Andrew Och writes his way through the lives of our country's amazing First Ladies.

    • Patricia Balderson
    • Manager, Museum Education
    • Colonial Williamsburg
  • "Andy's hard work, research and passion come through in his words and this book. I applaud his enthusiasm and admiration for our First Ladies. The First Ladies Man is bringing these great women into the spotlight and giving them all the recognition they so well deserve."

    • Anita McBride, Former Chief of Staff for Laura Bush & Executive-in-Residence
    • Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies
    • American University, School of Public Affairs

"Andy's hard work, research and passion come through in his words and this book. I applaud his enthusiasm and admiration for our First Ladies. The First Ladies Man is bringing these great women into the spotlight and giving them all the recognition they so well deserve."