YESTERDAY live it! highlighted five power couples from the past who changed history. Today, we present to you four couples from the present, who — together — have changed the lives of many while managing their super busy lifestyles. Who says you can’t have it all?
King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan
He may have made headlines this past week for his promise to go all out in war against the Islamic State (IS) militants, but King Abdullah II of Jordan has long been a larger-than-life figure who has no qualms going against the grain. Together with his wife, the Palestinian-born Queen Rania, the couple has set the example of a modern image Arab monarchy, one that also embraces modern Islamic values. Consistently ranked within the top 5 of ‘The 500 Most Influential Muslims’ annual publication, King Abdullah’s achievements as the head of state include improving Jordan’s economic growth and increasing foreign investment.
The 53-year old monarch has also worked to improve women’s rights and education, no doubt influenced and helped by Queen Rania whose advocacy work especially in education, health, youth and community empowerment is well-known. Much like her husband, the true beauty queen — once voted most beautiful consort in the world — is outspoken about cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue. To achieve that, she uses Facebook, Twitter, and has her own YouTube channel. By all accounts it was love at first sight when they met at a party in 1993 when Queen Rania was employed in a bank in Amman. They were married six months later. Four children and 22 years later, it seems the royal fairy-tale like love still runs deep — just check out the queen’s Instagram (@QueenRania).
Barack and Michelle Obama
The Obamas need no introduction. Both law graduates — he from Columbia University and Harvard Law School and she from Prince University and Harvard Law School — it’s no surprise that they met at a law firm in 1989 when he was a summer intern to whom she was assigned as an adviser. They were married three years later and eventually made history by being the US’ first black president and First Lady.
Barack and Michelle have continuously proven to use their power and influence for good since his first presidency term in 2008. Barack, 53, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his humanitarian efforts and extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy. Also an avid spokesperson for underprivileged and disadvantaged children, he has played a major part in several child-related organisations such as Kids in Distressing Situations (KIDS) and since the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — he has signed and outlined numerous proposals against gun laws in the US. In addition to him and his wife’s generous contributions to multiple charitable organisations, Obama donated all of his Nobel Peace Prize money — a whopping US$1.4 million (RM4.99 million) — to the less fortunate.
Michelle Obama — best known as a style icon — has been her husband’s backbone throughout his presidential campaign and all through his presidency. While she is admired by most for her impeccable style and poised demeanour, the 51-year-old has used her First Lady platform to support and be the voice of many charitable organisations; mainly that of women’s rights and education.
During her early months as First Lady, Michelle visited homeless shelters and soup kitchens. She also sent representatives to schools and advocated public service. The couple advocates strongly for one of America’s most controversial issues — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights and in 2011, Michelle included openly gay service members in her national military families’ initiative. In the following year, both she and the president came out publicly in favour of same-sex marriages.
George and Amal Clooney
They are the new kids on the marriage block: a reputedly sworn bachelor and the woman who finally captured him. In fact, most would now agree that the Hollywood heartthrob has married “up” with Lebanese-British lawyer, Amal Alamuddin. Apparently they met through a mutual friend at a charity-fundraising event last September and The Mirror reports he wooed her through a string of “flirty emails”. Amal is a barrister, who specialises in human rights and war crime cases and has worked with the United Nations (UN) on several commissions and special tribunals — including as prosecutor, adviser on Syria to former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and acted as counsel for an inquiry on the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations. Early this year, Amal began working on getting the Armenian Genocide recognised, in conjunction with its 100th anniversary.
No doubt, her husband shares a common interest in human rights issues and politics. The award-winning actor and director has been active in support of US President Barack Obama’s 2008 election. George’s passion for politics aside, he is known for throwing his celebrity clout and status behind charity and humanitarian works, notably the Darfur conflict. There are already whispers that with his new wife in support, Clooney might step into the political arena. Meanwhile, Amal took a step into Hollywood-land by gracing her first Hollywood awards at the 2015 Golden Globes last month where Clooney was awarded the Cecil B DeMille Award.
Bill and Melinda Gates
As if being one of the co-founders of the multi-billion dollar Microsoft Corporation isn’t enough, Bill Gates — and Melinda who was his office romance when she took a job at Microsoft in 1987 — have proven to be one power couple who aims to change the world with their influence. The duo’s biggest joint charitable ventures to date is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was identified by the Funds for NGOs company in 2013 as the world’s wealthiest and largest private charitable foundation.
Bill — himself being one of the most well-known names in technology — has contributed a huge part of his wealth all in the name of education. In addition to sponsoring multi-million dollar buildings in some of the world’s top universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, the 59-year-old is also widely recognised for his humanitarian and social work.
Since making Bill her man in 1994 after a six-year courtship, Melinda has used her influence as one half of one of the world’s most powerful and richest couples to help many charities and non-governmental organisations. In 2006, she was honoured for improving the lives of children locally and internationally with the naming of the Melinda French Gates Ambulatory Care building at Seattle Children’s. In 2013, Melinda was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Duke University as a tribute for her philanthropic commitment. In 2002, the couple both received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged and in 2005, they were named by Time as Persons of the Year. As of 2007, the uber-powerful double act was the second-most generous philanthropist in America, having given over US$28 billion (RM99.72 billion) to charity — with no plans to stop.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 12, 2015.