Michelle Obama Inspires Spelman College Class of 2011

Michelle Obama Inspires Spelman College Class of 2011

Spelman College commencement speaker First Lady Michelle Obama, provided 550 graduating seniors at the historically black women’s school with the cool words that they have been trained to, and have a duty to, change the world.

Published May 16, 2011

A very happy first lady Michelle Obama receives an honorary degree from Spelman College president Beverly D. Tatum. (Photo: AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser)

On hot Sunday in Atlanta, Spelman College commencement speaker first lady Michelle Obama, provided 550 graduating seniors of the historically black women’s school, with the cool words that they have been eminently trained to change the world for the better.


As an exemplar of the modern Black woman that Spelman has graduated since its founding in 1881, Obama told the graduates to spread the school’s gospel of service to others. "Find those folks who have so much potential but so little opportunity and do for them what Spelman has done for you," Obama said before a crowd of 10,000 comprised of the graduates’ family members, friends and supporters. “No matter where you go in the world, you will find folks who have been discounted or dismissed, but who have every bit as much promise as you have. They just haven't had the chance to fulfill it. It is your obligation to bring Spelman to those folks. Be as ambitious for them as Spelman has been for you."


To connect with the Class of 2011, Obama spoke of her own experience of leaving a high-paying position at a corporate law firm to work, and later become executive director of, a Chicago non-profit that encouraged young people to work in public service. Throughout her working career, and as first lady, Obama has had a special interest in families and health care.


In closing, Ms. Obama quoted a 1971 Spelman graduate, writer Tina McElroy Ansa. In one of her novels, Ansa wrote  “Claim what is yours…You belong anywhere on this earth you want to.”

The first lady, who earned her juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, received an honorary doctorate of laws degree from Spelman.

Written by Frank McCoy


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