This past weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama took to the stage to deliver an inspiring commencement speech to the graduates of Tuskegee University. Mrs. Obama shared the challenges of being the first African-American to serve as first lady and the lessons she has learned along the way.
“Back when my husband first started campaigning for president, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of first lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse,” Obama said.
“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 rooted in the fears and misperceptions 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?”
She went on to list the insensitive, racist comments she’s had to endure from the media and how it really made her question how the public perceived her and her husband.
“Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge Afro and 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,” she continued. “Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab.’ And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.’”
FLOTUS eventually learned to stop worrying about other people’s opinions of her and instead focused on having “faith in God’s plan” for her and her family.
“So throughout this journey, I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth. I had to answer some basic questions for myself: Who am I? No, really, who am I? What do I care about? And the answers to those questions have resulted in the woman who stands before you today. A woman who is, first and foremost, a mom. Look, I love our daughters more than anything in the world, more than life itself. And while that may not be the first thing that some folks want to hear from an Ivy league-educated lawyer, it is truly who I am. So for me, being Mom-in-Chief is, and always will be, job number one.”
To read her entire speech, click here.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)