First Lady to Tuskegee Graduates: Racism 'Not an Excuse to Lose Hope' First Lady: 'Sting' of Racism 'Didn't Hold Me Back'
During a passionate address at historically black Tuskegee University today, Michelle Obama said she refused to let the "sting" of racial bias define her.
"Over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of 'uppityism,'" the first lady said. "Cable news charmingly referred to me as 'Obama's baby mamma.'
"All of the chatter, the name-calling, the doubting, all of it was just noise," she said. "It did not define me, it didn't change who I was, and most importantly, it couldn't hold me back."
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Conjuring up the incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore, Obama told graduates, "Here's the thing, the road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me.
"There will be times, when you feel like folks look right past you or they see just a fraction of who you really are," she said.
The first lady recalled watching passersby cross the street when they saw her, as though afraid for their safety, and department store clerks who kept extra close watch on her and her husband.
"But graduates, today I want to be very clear that those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up, not an excuse to lose hope," she said. "We can take on these deep rooted problems and together, together we can overcome anything.
"Vote, vote, vote, vote, that's how we move forward," Obama said, telling graduates to focus on their own truth.
"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," she said.
Speaking of mothers -- the first lady had a "public service announcement" for her audience: "For anyone who hasn't bought the flowers or the cards or the gifts yet … I'm trying to cover you."