Michelle Obama lauds husband for taking high road
Michelle Obama encourages the graduating seniors to draw upon the strength of the state's civil rights movement when confronting racism or criticism
First Lady Michelle Obama gave a rare and impassioned defense of her husband's legacy Saturday, saying he's risen above personal attacks and taken the high road even as opponents have questioned his patriotism, his honesty, his citizenship and his faith.
"As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you," she told the graduating class of Jackson State University, a historically black college in Mississippi.
"I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course," she said.
The commencement address had echoes of a similar speech Mrs. Obama gave last year, at Tuskegee University in Alabama, when she confessed that criticism of her — often drenched in racial stereotypes — often caused her sleepless nights.
This year, her focus appeared to me more on President Obama's legacy. She recited a litany of accomplishments during the Obama presidency on the economy, health care, foreign policy, gay rights and climate change.
"Yet, too often, instead of acknowledging or celebrating this change, we have a tendency to focus on conflict and controversy. We pay endless attention to folks who are blocking action, blocking judges, blocking immigration, blocking a raise in the minimum wage — just blocking," she said. "We are consumed with the anger and vitriol that are bubbling up, with folks shouting at each other, using hateful and divisive language."
The president has often been at the receiving end of that language, she said. "Charges that he doesn’t love our country. The time he was called a liar in front of a Joint Session of Congress. The nonstop questions about his birth certificate and his belief in God," she said.
Mrs. Obama's defense of her husband was in the context of a commencement address in which she told the 800 graduates that they, too, will face discrimination — in voting rights, criminal justice, education and housing — and have to make a choice of how to deal with it.
"Are you going to get angry or lash out?" she asked. "Or are you going to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, lift up your head, and do what Barack Obama has always done — as he says, 'When they go low, I go high.'
"That’s the choice Barack and I have made. That’s what has kept us sane over the years. We simply do not allow space in our hearts, minds, or souls for darkness," she said.