Michelle Obama tells 2020 graduates to protest, mobilize, vote for change

Former First Lady Michelle Obama gave a YouTube address to the graduating class of 2020 on Sunday, and politics were clearly on the agenda.

According to The Hill, she urged young people to take a multi-faceted approach in their quest for social justice.

Michelle Obama addresses grads

“You deserve this celebration. Congratulations,” The Hill quoted Obama as telling the graduates. “This is an important time of transition. In light of the current state of our country, I struggle to find the right words of wisdom for you today.

“So I am here today to talk to you, not as the former first lady but as a real-life person, a mother, a mentor, a citizen concerned about your future and the future of our country because right now, all that superficial stuff of titles and positions, all of that has been stripped away,” she continued.

The former first lady went on to tell the students that “[a] lot of us are reckoning with the most basic essence of who we are.”

She added that for many, the “foundation has been shaken. Not just by a pandemic that stole too many of our loved ones, upended our daily lives and sent tens of millions into unemployment but also by the rumbling of the age-old fault lines that our country was built on, the lines of race and power that are now once again so nakedly exposed for all of us to grapple with,” she said, according to The Hill.

Issues call to action

Obama then stressed, “It’s up to you to march hand in hand with your allies, to stand peacefully with dignity and purpose on the front lines in the fight for justice.”

That was seemingly a reference to the mass protests that have sprung up following the death of George Floyd while in police custody late last month.

Many of those protests have turned violent, with arson, beatings, and looting becoming tragically common occurrences in major cities across the country.

Law enforcement officers have also been targeted amid the unrest. Among the victims was a 77-year-old retired St. Louis police captain, David Dorn, who was murdered while protecting a friend’s business from rioters, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Anger “a powerful force”

“Graduates, anger is a powerful force,” Obama told the assembled students. “It can be a useful force, but left on its own, it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos on the inside and out,” she said, having also suggested that those seeking change do more than just protest, but also engage “with plans and policies, with organizing and mobilizing and voting.”

She concluded her point by saying that “when anger is focused, when it’s channeled into something more, oh, that is the stuff that changes history,” adding:

Dr. King was angry. Sojourner Truth was angry. Lucretia Mott, Cesar Chavez, the folks at Stonewall, they were all angry. But those folks were also driven by compassion, by principle, by hope. And so they took advantage of whatever resources they had in their own time.

Only time will tell whether the vocal young activists of today will be able to direct their considerable energies into something positive, or if unchecked anger and aggression will continue overshadowing their message.

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