After a rough political week, it’s nice to remember the more favorable role models the White House has given us.
On July 25th, former First Lady Michelle Obama made her largest appearance since the 2016 election, speaking at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado before an audience of over eight thousand. The Foundation seeks to empower and provide greater economic opportunities for women in Colorado. Their 30th fundraising anniversary was a more-than-appropriate platform for Mrs. Obama.
In conversation with President and CEO Lauren Y. Casteel, Mrs. Obama largely steered clear of politics, and instead provided her perspective on empowering women from a young age. She stressed constant reminders of worth and of capability: “It’s their mothers, teachers, siblings, and their fathers and the men around them who every day can lift them up. Don’t underestimate the power of day-to-day motivation and inspiration in a girl’s life.”
Many of the issues are personally important to her rise. She encourages equal opportunities for women in STEM fields, criticizes the idea of an education which values the speed of learning, and per her early days as First Lady, supports better nutrition and health systems for children.
Her most poignant words, however, surround her experiences as a black woman in a position of power. Casteel lauds her as having shattered a glass ceiling by being the first black woman to hold the First Lady title. But what of the falling glass shards?
Mrs. Obama states, “The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut.” She continues, “Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.”
The number of rude, racist, and sexist criticisms the former First Lady received are countless. She asks that women rise above; to wear their scars proudly and to own them, lest those who inflict them go blameless. She affirms that she is “a strong woman because of other strong women.” Togetherness is crucial to her message. She references the power of a message like “Yes We Can,” which encourages collectively fixing the issues that face us.
Resoundingly, she claims: “I want to live in a world that cares for its women. I hope that we can create a world where women are safe. At the core, I want girls to feel safety as they move about the world.”
This, given the past week, extends to any marginalized group. Mrs. Obama speaks on behalf of those that have encountered barriers, and to those whose barriers have yet to be broken. Her message comes at a time more important than ever before; when human rights are denied and discrimination is systematized, safety and care are the work of us all.