During her last commencement speech as the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama gave powerful words of inspiration to the 2016 graduates of City College of New York. She began her speech by speaking of the diversity of the students noting that they represent more than 150 different nationalities speak over 100 languages.
After a brief mention earlier in her discussion that her family “had come here in chains,” she pointed out that the White House itself had been built by slaves. She used that history and her own personal experience of waking up there each day to empower the graduates listening to her words of wisdom.
It’s the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, black young women -– head off to school — (applause) — waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to American — to America for the same reasons as many of you: To get an education and improve his prospects in life.
So, graduates, while I think it’s fair to say that our Founding Fathers never could have imagined this day, all of you are very much the fruits of their vision. Their legacy is very much your legacy and your inheritance. And don’t let anybody tell you differently. You are the living, breathing proof that the American Dream endures in our time. It’s you.
You can watch this segment of her speech below:
Michelle Obama also shared some of her own personal story with the graduates and gave them insight into the struggles she herself had endured in the quest for a quality education. She also told them that they “should never, ever be embarrassed by those struggles.”
And even after my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and he struggled to walk, relying on crutches just to get himself out of bed each morning, my father hardly ever missed a day of work. See, that blue-collar job helped to pay the small portion of my college tuition that wasn’t covered by loans or grants or my work-study or my summer jobs. And my dad was so proud to pay that tuition bill on time each month, even taking out loans when he fell short. See, he never wanted me to miss a registration deadline because his check was late. That’s my story.
But, graduates, let me tell you, you should never, ever be embarrassed by those struggles.
You can watch Michelle Obama’s final commencement speech as First Lady of the United States in its entirety here:
Featured image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images