On Friday, Michelle Obama delivered her final commencement speech as First Lady of the United States of America, and what a speech it was!
In the last eight years Michelle Obama has built her entire platform on inspiring young people into greatness. It’s as if she has taken her love for her daughters and her desire to see them thrive, and magnified it beyond Malia and Sasha to extend toward every child and young person in this country. Her passion for the youth is contagious and inspiring.
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The commencement speech at New York City College was unique. She wanted be at this particular college due to its legacy of diversity and embracing immigrants. Her message focused on harnessing the brilliance of immigrants as the American life blood. Mrs. Obama spoke of legendary graduates Ira Gershwin, the Broadway composer whose parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants, and Andrew Grove, co-founder of Intel and Hungarian born businessman, to share how diversity fortifies and enriches the American experience while making us a great nation.
Not once has she deviated from her trumpeting call to help our children and young adults thrive through the most difficult situations in order to meet their potential head on.
Without using Donald Trump’s name directly Michelle Obama did address those who desire to climb that ladder and remove it in order to prevent others from success. She went on to say that others suggest our diversity is "a threat to be contained rather than a resource to be tapped." Though she never spoke his name, her words made it clear that she does not consent to the rhetoric of fear, separation and intimidation being encouraged by the Republican presidential candidate.
Michelle Obama gave her heart in the commencement speech, leaning into her own story of being supported by a father with multiple sclerosis, who worked hard to help her pay for college. She proved that she too has climbed a ladder held steady by those who preceded her. Our greatness comes from working hard to achieve success and reaching back to help those following to do the same.
Finally, one of the most courageous parts of this speech came when Mrs. Obama acknowledged that she wakes up in the White House each day, a house built by slave. She watches her daughters as they go to school saying goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya. Her theme of diversity and immigration tied into her personal story of what can be achieved when we open our hearts and share ideas with those who come from different places to find their highest potential in the United States.
It was clear that our First Lady believes in the American dream. But it’s not a pull yourself up by your boot straps dream. Her American dream is to help as many as you can, once you’ve succeeded. Help those who are like you and those who are not. Our strength is in our differences. Finally, let your gifts benefit your community and your rewards be shared by all.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s final commencement speech was true to her form throughout her eight years in the White House. Not once has she deviated from her trumpeting call to help our children and young adults thrive through the most difficult situations in order to meet their potential head on.