Snippets are circulating from the now viral video speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the 130th Commencement at Tuskegee University May 9, 2015.
Maybe you’ve caught a few. The entire speech is worthy of your time.
“But eventually, I realized if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me. I had to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself and the rest would work itself out.
I had to answer some basic questions for myself. Who am I? No really who am I? What do I care about. And the answer to those questions have resulted in the woman who stands before you today. A woman who is first and foremost a mom.
… for me, being mom-in-chief is and always will be job number one.”
The reason I’m sharing the Tuskegee University version, which isn’t viral, is because it includes a summary of Michelle Obama’s amazing life work accomplishment given by Tuskegee University President Johnson before she speaks, as he gives her the Doctor of Human Letters Honorary Degree.
Don’t skip it.
Michelle Obama is not famous for being famous. Her life work is amazing, extensive and awe-inspiring.
“I didn’t start out as the fully formed first lady who stands before you today. No, I had my share of bumps along the way.
Folks had all sorts of questions of me….that’s just the way the process works, but as potentially the first African American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations, conversations sometimes routed in the fears and mis-perceptions of others.
Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating?
Or Was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?
Then, there was the first time I was on a magazine cover. It was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge Afro and a machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if i’m really being honest it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder just how are people seeing me.
Or you might remember the onstage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary when that was referred to as a terrorist fist jab.”
I love this woman’s work, her mothering and how she doesn’t apologize for anything she is: maternal, brilliant, accomplished, fun, in love and political. She shares it all in this talk. She gives great advice at the end, is political throughout, smart and warm.
Watch it all, complete and in context.
If you are pressed for time, skip her thanks, acknowledgements and general openings (and only that).
There’s nothing like hearing the voice of someone speaking up, speaking out and speaking for herself. This is always true.
It’s especially true when what we get to hear is the voice of a person who might have been marginalized by gender, choices and race and who speaks to and for those groups with respect, not pity or disgust. She speaks of the “daily slights” and the deeper “structural challenges” which are real.
Author: Cissy White
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Youube Screenshot