The most admired woman on planet Earth? Michelle Obama.

The new YouGov survey also indicates that Barack and Michelle Obama are the most admired couple in the world.

  • For the survey, YouGov — a British polling firm — interviewed more than 42,000 people across 41 countries.
  • The results showed that the Obamas ranked higher than the Trumps on both the U.S. and international lists of admired public figures.
  • Unlike some former first ladies, Mrs. Obama has led a remarkably public life after leaving the White House.


Former First Lady Michelle Obama has dethroned Angelina Jolie as the world's most admired woman, according to a new YouGov survey. The results suggest that the Obamas are the world's most admired couple, considering that former President Barack Obama was voted the second-most admired man in the world, behind Bill Gates.

In the U.S., the Obamas topped both lists for 2019. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump came in second and third, respectively. These results echoed a 2018 Gallup survey, in which Mr. and Mrs. Obama were voted America's most admired man and woman.

The new survey suggests that the Trumps aren't as admired internationally as they are in the U.S.: Internationally, the president ranked 14th and the first lady 19th.

YouGov noted some differences between the men's and women's lists.

"Entertainers dominate the female list, with 12 of the most admired women being actresses, singers or TV presenters (although some, like Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie, are also notable for their humanitarian work)," YouGov wrote in a blog post. "By contrast, the list of most admired men contains more people from political, business and sporting backgrounds."

Interestingly, the Obamas and Trumps weren't the only political figures on the U.S. lists this year.

"Three of the Democratic presidential contenders also make it onto America's Most Admired list: Joe Biden is the 6th most admired man in the U.S., followed by Bernie Sanders in the 7th spot," YouGov wrote. "Elizabeth Warren also made the list, as the 13th most admired woman in the country. . . Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton are the 7th and 8th most admired women in the country, followed immediately by former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Ivanka Trump also makes the list as the 11th most admired woman in the United States."

The Obama's post-White House life

Unlike some first ladies before her, Michelle Obama has done anything but back away from the spotlight since leaving the White House. The 55-year-old former attorney has recently appeared on talk shows and awards ceremonies, and her bestselling autobiography Becoming has sold more than 10 million copies since 2018.

"She's a rock star at this point," Lissa Muscatine, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton, told The Guardian. "She's now a political celebrity."

In April, the Obamas unveiled a handful of documentary and film projects that they're developing with their production company Higher Ground Productions and Netflix. Some of those projects include a feature-length film about Frederick Douglas, a post-WWII drama series and a children's show about food.

"We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That's why we couldn't be more excited about these projects," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won't just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all."

Mrs. Obama added in a statement: "We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it's all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives. We think there's something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can't wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they'll generate."

One reason the former first lady's star seems to keep rising might be because some Americans miss the Obamas, Muscatine told The Guardian.

"People living through Trump have shown a yearning, a nostalgia for the Obamas even though it's only been a few years," she said. "They miss a husband and wife in the White House who took the jobs seriously. So when there's anything Obama, people want more of it."

What was it like to live in a Japanese concentration camp?

During World War II, the U.S. incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps throughout the West.

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Now that the issue of concentration camps in the U.S. has once again reared its head, it can be beneficial to recall the last time such camps were employed in the U.S.
  • After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. incarcerated over 100,000 Japanese Americans in camps, ostensibly for national security purposes.
  • In truth, the incarceration was primarily motivated by racism. What was life like in the U.S.'s concentration camps?

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized and directed military commanders "to prescribe military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion." Under the authority of this executive order, roughly 112,000 men, women, and children of Japanese descent — nearly two-thirds of which were American citizens — were detained in concentration camps.

How did the camps get their start?

With the benefit of a nearly 80-year perspective, it's clear that the internment of Japanese Americans was racially motivated. In response to Japan's growing military power in the buildup to World War II, President Roosevelt commissioned two reports to determine whether it would be necessary to intern Japanese Americans should conflict break out between Japan and the U.S. Neither's conclusions supported the plan, with one even going so far as to "certify a remarkable, even extraordinary degree of loyalty among this generally suspect ethnic group." But of course, the Pearl Harbor attacks proved to be far more persuasive than these reports.

Pearl Harbor turned simmering resentment against the Japanese to a full boil, putting pressure on the Roosevelt administration to intern Japanese Americans. Lieutenant General John DeWitt, who would become the administrator of the internment program, testified to Congress

"I don't want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map."

DeWitt's position was backed up by a number of pre-existing anti-immigrant groups based out of the West Coast, such as the Joint Immigration Committee and the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West. For many, the war simply served as an excuse to get rid of Japanese Americans. In an interview with the Saturday Evening Post, Austin Anson, the managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Administration, said:

"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It's a question of whether the White man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. ... If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks because the White farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either."

Ironically for Anson, the mass deportation of Japanese Americans under Executive Order 9066 meant there was a significant shortage of agricultural labor. Many Caucasians left to fight the war, so the U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico to permit the immigration of several million Mexicans agricultural workers under the so-called bracero program.

Life in the camps

Japanese American concentration camp

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Circa 1943: Aerial view of a Japanese American relocation center in Amache, Colorado, during World War II. Each family was provided with a space 20 by 25 ft. The barracks were set in blocks and each block was provided with a community bath house and mess hall.

For the most part, Japanese Americans remained stoic in the face of their incarceration. The phrase shikata ga nai was frequently invoked — the phrase roughly translates to "it cannot be helped," which, for many, represents the perceived attitude of the Japanese people to withstand suffering that's out of their control.

Initially, most Japanese Americans were sent to temporary assembly centers, typically located at fairgrounds or racetracks. These were hastily constructed barracks, where prisoners were often packed into tight quarters and made to use toilets that were little more than pits in the ground. From here, they were relocated to more permanent camps — replete with barbed wire and armed guards — in remote, isolated places across the seven states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas.

Many of these camps, also known as War Relocation Centers, were little better than the temporary assembly centers. One report described the buildings as "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Again, overcrowding was common.

As a result, disease became a major concern, including dysentery, malaria, and tuberculosis. This was problematic due to the chronic shortage of medical professionals and supplies, an issue that was not helped by the War Relocation Authority's decision to cap Japanese American medical professional's pay at $20 a month (about $315 in 2019 dollars), while Caucasian workers had no such restriction. As a comparison, Caucasian nurses earned $150 ($2,361) a month in one camp.

The U.S. government also administered loyalty questionnaires to incarcerated Japanese Americans with the ultimate goal of seeing whether they could be used as soldiers and to segregate "loyal" citizens from "disloyal" ones. The questionnaires often asked whether they would be willing to join the military and if they would completely renounce their loyalty to Japan. Due to fears of being drafted, general confusion, and justified anger at the U.S. government, thousands of Japanese Americans "failed" the loyalty questionnaire and were sent to the concentration camp at Tule Lake. When Roosevelt later signed a bill that would permit Japanese Americans to renounce their citizenship, 98 percent of the 5,589 who did were located at Tule Lake. Some apologists cite this an example of genuine disloyalty towards the U.S., but this argument clearly ignores the gross violation of Japanese Americans' rights. Later, it became clear that many of these renunciations had been made under duress, and nearly all of those who had renounced their citizenship sought to gain it back.

Since many children lived in the camps, they came equipped with schools. Of course, these schools weren't ideal — student-teacher ratios reached as high as 48:1, and supplies were limited. The irony of learning about American history and ideals was not lost on the students, one of whom wrote in an essay --

"They, the first generation [of Japanese immigrants], without the least knowledge of the English language nor the new surroundings, came to this land with the American pioneering spirit of resettling. ...Though undergoing many hardships, they did reach their goal only to be resettled by the order of evacuation under the emergency for our protection and public security."

Potentially the best part of life in the camps — and the best way for determined prisoners to demonstrate their fundamental American-ness — was playing baseball. One camp even featured nearly 100 baseball teams. Former prisoner Herb Kurima recalled the importance of baseball in their lives in an interview with Christian Science Monitor. "I wanted our fathers, who worked so hard, to have a chance to see a ball game," he said. "Over half the camp used to come out to watch. It was the only enjoyment in the camps."

The aftermath

When the camps finally closed in 1945, the lives of the incarcerated Japanese Americans had been totally upended. Some were repatriated to Japan, while others settled in whichever part of the country they had been arbitrarily placed in. Those who wished to return to the West Coast were given $25 and a train ticket, but few had anything to return to. Many had sold their property to predatory buyers prior to being incarcerated, while theft had wiped out whatever else they had left behind. Many, many years later, the 1988 Civil Liberties Act mandated that each surviving victim be paid $20,000, though that seems like a small fine to pay for irrevocably changing the courses of more than 100,000 lives.


First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less

Why Slavoj Zizek thinks political correctness is dumb

Zizek is on the left and dislikes political correctness. How does that work out?

Matt Carr/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Slavoj Zizek is a well-known opponent of political correctness and has often critiqued the concept.
  • He doesn't suggest anybody should go around uttering slurs for the sake of it though.
  • His stance led him to agree with Jordan Peterson at their famed debate.
Keep reading Show less