First Lady Tells Graduates to "Embrace Folks With a Different Point of View"

Michelle Obama shares personal and political lessons learned in Eastern Kentucky University commencement speech.

Posted: 05/13/2013 11:16 AM EDT
First Lady Tells Graduates to "Embrace Folks With a Different Point of View"

First Lady Michelle Obama on Saturday delivered the first of three commencement addresses she will give this year at Eastern Kentucky University. She chose the institution in part because of its strong ties and deep commitment to veterans.

Like the first lady, many of the students are the first in their family to attend college. Obama recalled the challenges and insecurities she felt when she first arrived at Princeton University, where for a significant number of students attending the ivy-covered institution is a family for tradition.

"I know you faced all kinds of doubts and uncertainties when you first showed up on this campus. And I know a little bit about that from my own experiences," the first lady said. "When I first set foot on campus, oh, it all seemed so big and overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to start — how to pick out the right classes, how to even find the right buildings. So I began to think that maybe all those doubters might have been right."

But soon after, she took the values and perseverance she'd learned from her parents to "turn stumbles and missteps into sources of inspiration."

Obama challenged the graduates to ask themselves three simple questions: Who do you want to be? How will you serve others? Who will you include in your lives?

Perhaps drawing from the lessons learned from her front-row seat at the White House and on the campaign trail, Obama called on them to reach across the aisle. And in doing so, she said, they should "focus on what unites us."

"If you’re a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican. And if you’re a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. Maybe you’ll find some common ground; maybe you won’t," she said. "But if you honestly engage with an open mind and an open heart, I guarantee you’ll learn something. And goodness knows we need more of that, because we know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do — we just get more stuck in our ways, more divided, and it gets harder to come together for a common purpose."

The choice is theirs, she added: "Continue fighting the fights that we've been locked in for decades" or "reject those old divisions and embrace folks with a different point of view."

The first lady is scheduled to address graduates at the HBCU Bowie State University on May 17. 

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(Photo: AP Photo/James Crisp)

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