First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a powerful commencement speech at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, on Saturday, addressing the stereotyping and pressure she feels not only as the First Lady of the United States, but also an African-American woman.
Michelle, who addressed the graduating class of 2015 and an audience of nearly 4,000 at the historically black university, spoke about overcoming her own insecurities regarding her public perception – specifically during her husband President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.
“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,” she said. “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?”
Obama referenced a July 2008 cover of the New Yorker, which featured a satirical illustration of the Obamas drawn by Barry Blitt. The caricature showed the future FLOTUS dressed as a Black Panther, first bumping with a turban-wearing Barack in front of portrait of Osama bin Laden.
I remember that cover. I blogged/bitched about that cover back in July 2008.
Check out the entire speech at WhiteHouse.gov. or you can watch the video below.
Back in February Jasmine Williams sent an invitation to the White House asking if Michelle Obama would speak at her high school graduation. Today Michelle delivered the commencement address to the Washington Math, Science, and Technology Public Charter High School.
First Lady Accepts Invite to Charter School Graduation
Michelle Obama tells charter school graduates not to worry
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE and MATTHEW STABLEY
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn’t the only D.C. celebrity getting in on the high school commencement action. First lady Michelle Obama is offering this advice to students doubting if they’re ready for the future: “Don’t worry.”
She delivered the commencement address to Washington’s Math, Science, and Technology Public Charter High School at Howard University Wednesday thanks to an invitation from graduate Jasmine Williams.
Mrs. Obama told 98 graduates that before going off to Princeton University she worried about whether she was ready and would fit in.
She also mentioned Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic considered for the nation’s highest court. Sotomayor attended Princeton before Mrs. Obama and has said that she felt intimidated by her surroundings.
In the end, Mrs. Obama said she, her husband Barack Obama and Sotomayor all were ready for the challenge. And she told the graduates they are more than ready as well.
Jasmine will be attending North Carolina A&T this fall.
WMST PCHS sounds like a really good school. According to the website:
Founded in 1998, Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School (WMST PCHS) is a leading school that is free to residents of the District of Columbia.
The mission of WMST is to provide a rigorous education, integrating mathematics and science instruction with technology that will enhance analytical reasoning development. Our goal is to produce highly motivated, successful students prepared for higher education in mathematics, science, technology and related careers.
The school has a 99 percent graduation rate and 98 percent of the graduating students attend college. Congrats to this years graduates.
Columnist Leonard Pitts has an interesting column on how the media and America’s perception of First Lady Michelle Obama has gone from an angry, fist bumping, Angela Davis type militant to a warm, loving first lady and first mom. Her mainstream media perception has gone from this:
Leonard Pitts Jr.
Maybe you remember when Michelle Obama was scary.
Surely you do; it was just a few months ago. A fire-snorting amalgam of Angela Davis and Sister Souljah she was, a militant, terrorist fist-bumping sister girl whose hatred of America was exceeded only by her hatred of “whitey.” Or so we were told.
If you remember all that, then perhaps you are as amused as I am by the transformation of perception that has since taken place, culminating in last week’s triumphant visit to Great Britain where the famously formal queen (“whitey” doesn’t come any whiter than that) stunned royal watchers by putting an arm around the first lady. But why should her majesty be any different from anyone else? Seems like everybody has embraced Michelle Obama.
Pollsters tell us she is more popular than her very popular husband. You cannot pass a magazine stand without seeing her smile. Women are gushing over her toned arms and elegant fashion sense, and she’s being called this era’s Jacqueline Kennedy. Then there’s that whole thing of Elizabeth II throwing an arm around her like they were sorority sisters or something, leaving the British, with their arcane protocol governing every interaction with their monarch down to and including how many times one may blink in her direction, well and truly gobsmacked.
And you wonder how anyone ever thought this woman was scary.
And he states this:
One is reminded that to be African American is inevitably to find yourself defined by other people’s distortions and fears and that the work of a lifetime is to make them see you — not the you that they’ve been told, but the you that you are, standing there.
Consider Michelle Obama. Six months ago, she was terrifying. Now she is beloved. If you’re wondering how that happened, I can only say this: It was not she who changed.
You can read it all here.
First Lady Michelle Obama and her mom Marian Robinson grace the cover of the May 2009 issue of Essence Magazine. I received my copy in the mail today.
The first lady and first grandma look great.
In their first interview together, First Lady Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, sit down in the White House to speak exclusively to ESSENCE Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray about retaining their family values, what it takes to raise good kids, and being role models for the Black community. Read on for excerpts from the interview.
Mrs. Michelle Obama on what being First Lady means to her:
It’s an honor and a privilege when you walk into the White House-at least I automatically felt a level of obligation. This is a big responsibility, a wonderful platform and I just want to make sure I take every advantage to serve as a role model, to provide good messages, to be a supportive mate to the President and to make sure that my girls are solid.”
Mrs. Marian Robinson on seeing her daughter step into this historic role:
“Well, to me, it’s overwhelming. I never doubted that she could do this. She is doing it with such grace and dignity. So I am just proud. I just hope she does what she wants to do. [Chuckles] Because the things that she wants to do are very important. They mean a lot to her.”
Mrs. Michelle Obama on finding balance:
“Unlike most women, I have a lot of resources: I have my mother living with me. The White House has a staff of people who are there to make my life easy. I don’t have a full-time job, although I work very hard in the role of First Lady. But I have a lot of resources. So I have been able to achieve the balance because I have the support I need.”
Mrs. Robinson on what her late husband, Fraser Robinson III, would say about this moment:
“You would not be able to shut him up! He would not be able to stand this. He would be beaming until you would just want him to stop talking. He bragged about Michelle and her brother, Craig, before they had even done anything. He always encouraged them, and when he talked about Craig and Michelle, you could just see a smile on his face whether it was there or not. He just enjoyed these two people.”
You can read the entire interview by picking up the May 2009 issue of Essence Magazine at any bookstore, newstand or grocery store.
BY Jane Ridley
DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST
London- Forget the global financial crisis or how the G-20 plans to solve it.
A far more pressing question is occupying great British minds: Does Michelle Obama wear Spanx under her pencil skirts?
Such is the obsession with all things Michelle that readers of London’s Daily Mail must ponder whether the First Lady’s “toned physique is [due] to more than just hours in the gym.”
The newspaper speculated on a so-called visible panty line across her right thigh – a tell-tale sign that the invisible support system slimming bottom and thighs has miserably failed in its job. Oh, the shame! But this alleged victim need not worry one bit.
The succession of chic outfits Obama has showcased here has won universal approval in the British press.
For her daytime appearance, she wore a springlike ensemble – a green gingham skirt, white top and cream-colored cardigan – from J. Crew, complemented by classic pearls and elegant bracelets.
Of course most folks are focusing on what Michelle is wearing. Being the proud non fashionista that I am, what Michelle wears isn’t a big deal to me. In my eyes she looks nice in just about everything she wears. Some folks are going batshit crazy over what she’s wearing. Hollering that this and that is so wrong and screaming about being sleeveless again. Lord have mercy, the economy is in the tank all over the world and some folks are worried about what outfit Michelle is wearing.
Anyway Michelle is causing a frenzy again with another J. Crew outfit. Their website saw a huge spike in visitors this week. Then there’s the controversy over the hug Michelle gave Queen Elizabeth II. Apparently the Queen placed her arm around Michelle first and Michelle returned the gesture. And of course some folks went batshit crazy.
She is not renowned for public displays of affection. Which made the Queen’s decision to put a friendly arm around Michelle Obama’s waist at a Buckingham Palace G20 reception – prompting the U.S. President’s wife to return the gesture – so utterly astonishing.
Finding herself next to Mrs Obama, the Queen remarked on their height difference. As she did so, her hand edged towards the small of Mrs Obama’s back. Mrs Obama responded – and even rubbed the Queen’s shoulder – before both women moved gently apart after about ten seconds.
The sight of the Queen publicly hugging another woman astonished other guests. An onlooker said: ‘It was a pretty simultaneous gesture. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.’
It was an electrifying moment of palpable majesté: A breach of centuries-long protocol when the friendly and outgoing Michelle Obama put her arm round the Queen.
It now appears, however, that it may have been the Queen who made the initial move. In any case, it was the first time that anyone can remember in her long public life that she has put her arm around another woman.
‘A mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation,’ was how a Buckingham Palace spokesman hastened to describe it.
Maybe the Queen was in a friendly mood. It would have been hysterical if Queen Elizabeth had given Michelle the so called terrorist fist bump. Oh the horror!! The British and American media folks would have been in a frenzy, lol 😉
First Lady Michelle Obama’s official photo was released a couple of weeks ago and she looks great.
Some folks including New York Times columnist David Brooks have gone batshit crazy over Michelle’s sleeveless wear. According to fellow New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:
In the taxi, when I asked David Brooks about her amazing arms, he indicated it was time for her to cover up. “She’s made her point,” he said. “Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.”
With the economy in the tank, thousands of folks losing their jobs and most folks losing money in their 401K, why is David Brooks so offended by what Michelle Obama is wearing?
Anyway I hope Michelle continues to wear what she’s comfortable in and to hell with the critics.
Saturday Night Live is trying to lure back Maya Rudolph to play Michelle Obama on the show. Maya left the show last year.
According to the August 4-10th issue of TV Guide Magazine Lorne Michaels was auditioning black actresses for that role which surprised me considering the lack of diversity on this show. According to this article there was a fear that Kenan Thompson would play the role of Michelle in drag:
Last month, TV Guide reported that Lorne Michaels was auditioning black actresses to play Michelle Obama on Saturday Night Live, which was a relief to everyone afraid she would be played by Kenan Thompson in drag.
Can you imagine the outrage if SNL pulled that stunt?
The article continues:
But instead of giving a big break to a deserving black comedienne, today Lorne Michaels revealed that the show is taking the lazy route of trying to bring back former cast member Maya Rudolph to play Michelle Obama.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Maya Rudolph. But for a show featuring so few black women lately, this was a perfect opportunity to increase the show’s diversity. Because, seriously, seeing black men in drag is getting old.
Trying to bring back a former cast member is taking the lazy route. I have nothing against Maya but you mean to tell me that Lorne Michaels can’t find one black actress/comedienne out there who could play Michelle Obama? What happens if Maya says no? Then what? Will Lorne Michaels cast a white actress instead, stating that there aren’t any black actresses available?
I read an article in the Detroit Free Press titled Michelle Obama credited with helping recast image of U.S. black women. The article talks about how many black women are excited at the prospect of Michelle Obama becoming a role model for black women. After years of video hoochies on tv and certain celebrities anointed by the media as the most beautiful, Michelle is certainly a refreshing change. A lot of black women are sick and tired of the Jezebel, Mammy and Sapphire stereotypes that still run rampant in the media when it comes to black women.
BY CASSANDRA SPRATLING
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
There’s a new joy and excitement among many of the patrons of the Spiral Collective, a collection of businesses owned by black women in Detroit.
Their happiness centers on Michelle Obama, a woman they say puts a refreshing face on America’s image of African-American women.
“People who come in here are absolutely in love with Michelle Obama,” says Janet Webster Jones, who owns the Source Booksellers, one of the four businesses in one building at the corner of Cass and Willis in Midtown. The others are an art gallery, a natural hair care salon and an eclectic boutique.
“The ladies who come in here say they love how they love each other,” Jones, 71, says, referring to the affection between Michelle Obama and her husband, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president of the United States.
That excitement was evident in the crowd of women who lined up to see Michelle Obama in downtown Pontiac earlier this month, some of whom arrived three hours before the doors of the Crofoot ballroom opened to them.
Jones and others say that Michelle Obama knocks down old stereotypes of black women: Sapphire, the angry black woman; Mammy, the caretaker and nurturer of her own children and everybody else’s, and Jezebel, the loose woman.
Jones’ daughter, Alyson Jones, 34, says the modern-day jezebels are booty-shaking hoochie mamas popularized in hip-hop videos.
“So Michelle comes along and she completely dispels all that,” Janet Jones says. “She represents someone who came from humble beginnings to achieve a high level of education. She has a strong self-identity as a female.
“You know she likes to wear dresses and high heels and she’s almost 6 feet tall. And she’s a loving wife and a great mother.”
“She normalizes black women,” says Alyson Jones, an elementary teacher at Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, a charter school in Detroit. “She’s not the bitter black woman pundits have tried to make her out be.”
Yet despite Michelle’s accomplishments, she still scares the hell out of some folks. Go figure, eh. The entire article can be read here.
Michelle Obama, wife of presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, graces the cover of the February 25, 2008 issue of Newsweek Magazine.
She’s the one who keeps him real, the one who makes sure running for leader of the free world doesn’t go to his head. Michelle’s story.
By Richard Wolffe
Michelle Obama was never much interested in calling attention to herself. As an undergrad at Princeton in the 1980s, she was interested in social change, but didn’t run for student government. Instead, she spent her free time running a literacy program for kids from the local neighborhoods. At Harvard Law, she took part in demonstrations demanding more minority students and professors. Yet unlike another more prominent Harvard Law student who would later take up the cause, she was not one to hold forth with high-flown oratory about the need for diversity. “When [Barack Obama] spoke, people got quiet and listened,” recalls Prof. Randall Kennedy. “Michelle had a more modest, quieter, lower profile.” Barack won election as president of the Law Review. Michelle put her energy into a less glamorous pursuit: recruiting black undergrads to Harvard Law from other schools. For her, politics wasn’t so much about being inspirational as it was being practical—about getting something specific done, says Charles Ogletree, one of her professors. “She was not trying to get ahead.”
You can read the entire article here or buy a copy of Newsweek at your local bookstore, grocery store or newstand this week.
Another article in this week’s Newsweek is A Real Wife, In a Real Marriage, written by Raina Kelley. The question Raina asks: Is Michelle an outspoken, smart black woman or a bossy, emasculating wife?
And as Michelle Obama captures the media’s attention, I am reminded of my past foolishness. She is a strong, smart black woman who does not hesitate to speak her mind—and that has been the source of her appeal. But as her husband rises from underdog to front runner, and Michelle becomes more visible and vocal in the campaign, those “feisty dame” stereotypes that had been her strengths might be turning around to bite her. Critics are now taking her to task for being emasculating, sarcastic and bossy—characteristics that are just on the other side of the looking glass from strong, smart, black and female. So now the question is: which stereotype will stick?
Part of Michelle’s strength is that she has been immune to the mommy wars that tripped up Hillary during Bill’s campaigns. The baking-versus-working tension is irrelevant for her; black women have never been burdened with the luxury of choice. Our heritage does not include the gilded cage, and we certainly never fought to labor outside the home—black women have always worked. This is why many of us never inherited the remorse about balancing work and family that plagues our white counterparts. For Michelle, voters have read this as self-assurance—appealing to young voters who are optimistic that they will find a balance between career and home. For older women, Michelle seems to speak with real candor about the realities of domestic life—including her complaints about Barack’s aversion to picking up his socks and putting away the butter. In an interview with Glamour magazine she said, “People understood that this is how we all live in our marriages. And Barack is very much human. So let’s not deify him, because what we do is we deify, and then we’re ready to chop it down. People have notions of what a wife’s role should be in this process, and it’s been a traditional one of blind adoration. My model is a little different—I think most real marriages are.”