Michelle Obama continues to prove she’s one of the most influential First Lady’s in U.S. history. On Saturday, Obama gave a commencement speech at Jackson State University in Mississippi in front of an energetic graduating class.
The First Lady used her platform for speak out against issues concerning civil rights, with a focus on both the African-American and LGBT communities in Mississippi:
We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago -– how swiftly progress can hurtle backward,” Obama said. “How easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love
Michelle Obama’s comments at Jackson State held a special significance. On May 14, 1970, two students were shot and killed by police during a civil rights protest. At another Mississipi College, Oxford University, also known as Ole Miss raised the Confederate flag in 1956 in protest of the Brown v. Board of Education decision which led to school desegregation.
In April, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB1523 also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. This law gives individuals and organizations the right to discriminate against the LGBT community as long as they cite their “sincerely-held religious beliefs” as the source of their actions.
Obama emphasized the importance of students standing up for those other minorities on the margins of society who endure both legal and illegal discrimination:
So we’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors –- straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African Americans, it’s about all Americans,” she said. “It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.
She urged students not to allow “anger and vitriol” to distract them from their common goal of bringing about a more just and equal society:
We pay endless attention to folks who are blocking action, blocking judges, blocking immigration, blocking a raise in the minimum wage. Just blocking,” Obama said. “We are consumed with the anger and vitriol that are bubbling up, with folks shouting at each other, using hateful and divisive language.
Michelle Obama also touched on her husband’s presidency and the unique challenges he faced due to his race:
And then there’s the countless times when that language gets personal and is directed at my husband –- charges that he doesn’t love our country,” Obama said. “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.
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Featured image via Washington Blade.