First Lady Michelle Obama recently delivered the commencement address for the class of 2016 at Jackson State University in Mississippi. The FLOTUS used the occasion to talk about very serious issues, including how she and President Obama have weathered racism and racist criticism since he took office.
‘As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you.’
However, she warned against letting hateful rhetoric and actions define such national conversations:
‘Yet, too often, instead of acknowledging or celebrating this change, we have a tendency to focus on conflict and controversy. We pay endless attention to folks who are blocking action, blocking judges, blocking immigration, blocking a raise in the minimum wage — just blocking. We are consumed with the anger and vitriol that are bubbling up, with folks shouting at each other, using hateful and divisive language.’
And she took the opportunity to discuss how the Obamas have chosen to react to these issues:
‘Are you going to get angry or lash out? Or are you going to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, lift up your head, and do what Barack Obama has always done — as he says, when they go low, I go high. That’s the choice Barack and I have made. That’s what has kept us sane over the years. We simply do not allow space in our hearts, minds, or souls for darkness.’
Finally, Michelle Obama left the students with this message about broadening social justice and civil rights as a way of combating hateful rhetoric across the board:
‘So we’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors –- straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African Americans, it’s about all Americans. It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.’
Although his name doesn’t come up during her address, it’s clear that in part this is her strategy for dealing with the hateful rhetoric associated with Donald Trump’s rise. It’s a powerful message for Michelle Obama to deliver and one that ought to make people proud this family is currently in the White House. You can imagine, though, that these examples of hateful, racist attitudes are only a fraction of what the Obamas have actually experienced. Once the president leaves office, you can count on a full disclosure of the racism they have faced behind closed doors in Washington.
Featured Image via YouTube screengrab.