Michelle Obama Bowie State University: First Lady's Graduation Speech a Must-Hear


Michelle Obama made a commencement speech at Bowie State Saturday. It is a predominantly black school that was founded in 1865 about two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation; it is not a law enacted by Congress.  The Proclamation stated that all those enslaved in Confederate territory were free. (Please note: slaves were not freed in the border states by this document.)

Obama discussed education issues that affect African Americans. I think her comments were extraordinary and spot on. Take particular note of the last line below.

Below are a few of my favorite excerpts from Mrs. Obama’s speech. Click here to access the entire transcript or just read below:

“But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of 'separate but equal,' when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper. [Applause] Right now, one in three African American students are dropping out of high school. Only one in five African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 has gotten a college degree — one in five.

But let’s be very clear. Today, getting an education is as important if not more important than it was back when this university was founded. Just look at the statistics. [Applause] People who earn a bachelor’s degree or higher make nearly three times more money than high school dropouts, and they’re far less likely to be unemployed. A recent study even found that African American women with a college degree live an average of six and a half years longer than those without. And for men, it’s nearly 10 years longer. So yes, people who are more educated actually live longer. 

If the school in your neighborhood isn’t any good, don’t just accept it. Get in there, fix it. Talk to the parents. Talk to the teachers. Get business and community leaders involved as well, because we all have a stake in building schools worthy of our children’s promise.

And when it comes to your own kids, if you don’t like what they’re watching on TV, turn it off. [Applause] If you don’t like the video games they’re playing, take them away. [Applause] Take a stand against the media that elevates today’s celebrity gossip instead of the serious issues of our time. Take a stand against the culture that glorifies instant gratification instead of hard work and lasting success.

And as my husband has said often, please stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white. Reject that. [Applause]."