Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Brilliant Words from Michelle Obama

Michelle Speaking Out

CNN had this picture of Michelle Obama speaking out on Thursday

CNN had this picture of Michelle Obama speaking out on Thursday

On Thursday last week Michelle Obama spoke out about Donald Trump’s disgraceful comments. I’d heard snippets. I’ve just read her whole speech.

It’s amazing.

Frank Bruni commented, “First at the Democratic convention in late July and then in New Hampshire on Thursday, she embodied the nation’s conscience and staked her claim as the most earnest guardian of our most important values.”

He believes she has provided the final death blow to Trump’s campaign, he said in yesterday’s New York Times opinion piece.

She spoke about the celebration at the White House two days earlier for the International Day of the Girl. She also held her final “Let Girls Learn” event as First Lady. She said she was inspired by girls from around the world.

“See,” she said, “many of these girls have faced unthinkable obstacles just to attend school, jeopardizing their personal safety, their freedom, risking the rejection of their families and communities.”

Emma Watson with two girl students in Malawi

Emma Watson, UNWomen Ambassador, with two girl students in Malawi for International Day of the Girl

She wanted them to understand, “the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”

The comments by a candidate for President of the United States were so demeaning she wouldn’t repeat them. She was hurt by the comments, she said, and couldn’t ignore them.

“It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a ‘lewd conversation.’ This wasn’t just locker-room banter.”

If you haven’t heard or read the speech, please do. The LA Times has the transcript, with a few excerpts in video. You can find it in other media too.

Or you can watch on YouTube. You can skip the first two minutes of applause, thank you’s, and other niceties if you want, though they provide a great warm-up.

Thank You, Michelle

In my blog and in public I write and speak about building community. I belive creating a sense of belonging among Americans is an act against racism.

I think of Martin Luther King’s words, “Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He continued, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Delivered at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on 31 March 1968. Congressional Record, 9 April 1968.

In this inescapable network, we are responsible for each other. That’s why Michelle was right to call out the candidate for his attitude toward women. She was caring for all women.

Thank you, Michelle, for speaking so powerfully.

I’m one of thousands, even millions, thanking Michelle, not just for this speech but for her example. Four well-known people sent thank you notes that were printed in Sunday’s Style section of The New York Times.

The first came from Chimamanda Adichie. She described listening to Michelle in 2008. Then she contrasted that with her 2016 convention speech.

At this point Michelle spoke more freely. “She said ‘black boy’ and ‘slaves,’ words she would not have said eight years ago because eight years ago any concrete gesturing to blackness would have had real consequences.”

Chimamanda says, “She threw open the White House doors to people on the margins of America. She was working class, and she was Princeton, and so she could speak of opportunity as a tangible thing.”

Gloria Steinem sent a thank you to Michelle Obama for speaking out

Gloria Steinem sent a thank you to Michelle Obama for speaking out

Gloria Steinem sent the second thank you, another wonderful letter.

She closed with, “Though I’m old enough to remember Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House . . I have never seen such balance and equal parenting, such love, respect, mutuality and pleasure in each other’s company. We will never have a democracy until we have democratic families and a society without the invented categories of both race and gender. Michelle Obama may have changed history in the most powerful way — by example.”

Jon Meacham sent the third, but you’ll have to read that yourself!

The last letter is from Rashida Jones.

I would guess that some of my readers are saying, “Who?” as I did! She’s a writer, actor, and producer.

Rashida Jones sent a thank you

Rashida Jones sent a thank you to Michelle

“If feminism’s goal is equal opportunity and choice, Michelle makes me feel like every choice is available. You can go to Princeton and Harvard . . you can be a mother and a lawyer and a powerful orator. You can champion the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, while also caring about fashion. You can dance with Ellen and also fearlessly remind people, on live television, of the reality of your position: ‘I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.’”

Another exciting week!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

2 Comments

  1. Love this posting! Thanks for such a wonderful summary and highlighting of some “high” moments!