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Wed May 13, 2015, 08:28 AM

Heartbreaking our first black First Lady encountered such hostility - uplifting how she overcame it

Last edited Thu May 14, 2015, 11:09 AM - Edit history (2)


...I've been reading this commencement speech delivered by First lady Michelle Obama at Tuskegee University on May 9, over and over...it's both devastating in what Mrs. Obama relates about the awful reception she and her family received from some quarters of the country, and gratifying in the courage and optimism she, nonetheless, imparts to the graduating students.

We may never be witness to anything so profoundly defining of the dearth of progress America has made along the lines of race, as a whole; or made witness to such grace and beneficence under pressure from the highest office in the land as we have been gifted by this remarkable couple's examples of forbearance and comity.

...an excerpt from this magnificent speech by Michelle Obama:


AP Photo/Brynn Anderson


____ I’d like to begin today by reflecting on that history -- starting back at the time when the Army chose Tuskegee as the site of its airfield and flight school for black pilots.

Back then, black soldiers faced all kinds of obstacles. There were the so-called scientific studies that said that black men’s brains were smaller than white men’s. Official Army reports stated that black soldiers were “childlike,” “shiftless,” “unmoral and untruthful,” and as one quote stated, “if fed, loyal and compliant.”

So while the Airmen selected for this program were actually highly educated -- many already had college degrees and pilots licenses -- they were presumed to be inferior. During training, they were often assigned to menial tasks like housekeeping or landscaping. Many suffered verbal abuse at the hands of their instructors. When they ventured off base, the white sheriff here in town called them “boy” and ticketed them for the most minor offenses. And when they finally deployed overseas, white soldiers often wouldn’t even return their salutes.

Just think about what that must have been like for those young men. Here they were, trained to operate some of the most complicated, high-tech machines of their day -- flying at hundreds of miles an hour, with the tips of their wings just six inches apart. Yet when they hit the ground, folks treated them like they were nobody -- as if their very existence meant nothing.

Now, those Airmen could easily have let that experience clip their wings. But as you all know, instead of being defined by the discrimination and the doubts of those around them, they became one of the most successful pursuit squadrons in our military. They went on to show the world that if black folks and white folks could fight together, and fly together, then surely -- surely -- they could eat at a lunch counter together. Surely their kids could go to school together.

You see, those Airmen always understood that they had a “double duty” -- one to their country and another to all the black folks who were counting on them to pave the way forward. So for those Airmen, the act of flying itself was a symbol of liberation for themselves and for all African Americans.

One of those first pilots, a man named Charles DeBow, put it this way. He said that a takeoff was -- in his words -- “a never-failing miracle” where all “the bumps would smooth off… you’re in the air… out of this world… free.”

And when he was up in the sky, Charles sometimes looked down to see black folks out in the cotton fields not far from here -- the same fields where decades before, their ancestors as slaves. And he knew that he was taking to the skies for them -- to give them and their children something more to hope for, something to aspire to.

And in so many ways, that never-failing miracle -- the constant work to rise above the bumps in our path to greater freedom for our brothers and sisters -- that has always been the story of African Americans here at Tuskegee.

Just think about the arc of this university’s history. Back in the late 1800s, the school needed a new dormitory, but there was no money to pay for it. So Booker T. Washington pawned his pocket watch to buy a kiln, and students used their bare hands to make bricks to build that dorm -- and a few other buildings along the way.

A few years later, when George Washington Carver first came here for his research, there was no laboratory. So he dug through trash piles and collected old bottles, and tea cups, and fruit jars to use in his first experiments.

Generation after generation, students here have shown that same grit, that same resilience to soar past obstacles and outrages -- past the threat of countryside lynchings; past the humiliation of Jim Crow; past the turmoil of the Civil Rights era. And then they went on to become scientists, engineers, nurses and teachers in communities all across the country -- and continued to lift others up along the way.

And while the history of this campus isn’t perfect, the defining story of Tuskegee is the story of rising hopes and fortunes for all African Americans.

And now, graduates, it’s your turn to take up that cause. And let me tell you, you should feel so proud of making it to this day. And I hope that you’re excited to get started on that next chapter. But I also imagine that you might think about all that history, all those heroes who came before you -- you might also feel a little pressure, you know -- pressure to live up to the legacy of those who came before you; pressure to meet the expectations of others.





And believe me, I understand that kind of pressure. I’ve experienced a little bit of it myself. You see, graduates, I didn’t start out as the fully-formed First Lady who stands before you today. No, no, I had my share of bumps along the way.

Back when my husband first started campaigning for President, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse. That’s just the way the process works. But, as potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?

Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover -- it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me.

Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a “terrorist fist jab.” And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited “a little bit of uppity-ism.“ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s “cronies of color.” Cable news once charmingly referred to me as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”

And of course, Barack has endured his fair share of insults and slights. Even today, there are still folks questioning his citizenship.

And all of this used to really get to me. Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about what people thought of me, wondering if I might be hurting my husband’s chances of winning his election, fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mom.

But eventually, I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do, and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me. I had to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself -- and the rest would work itself out.

So throughout this journey, I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth. I had to answer some basic questions for myself: Who am I? No, really, who am I? What do I care about?

And the answers to those questions have resulted in the woman who stands before you today. A woman who is, first and foremost, a mom. Look, I love our daughters more than anything in the world, more than life itself. And while that may not be the first thing that some folks want to hear from an Ivy-league educated lawyer, it is truly who I am. So for me, being Mom-in-Chief is, and always will be, job number one.

Next, I’ve always felt a deep sense of obligation to make the biggest impact possible with this incredible platform. So I took on issues that were personal to me -- issues like helping families raise healthier kids, honoring the incredible military families I’d met on the campaign trail, inspiring our young people to value their education and finish college.

Now, some folks criticized my choices for not being bold enough. But these were my choices, my issues. And I decided to tackle them in the way that felt most authentic to me -- in a way that was both substantive and strategic, but also fun and, hopefully, inspiring.

So I immersed myself in the policy details. I worked with Congress on legislation, gave speeches to CEOs, military generals and Hollywood executives. But I also worked to ensure that my efforts would resonate with kids and families -- and that meant doing things in a creative and unconventional way. So, yeah, I planted a garden, and hula-hooped on the White House Lawn with kids. I did some Mom Dancing on TV. I celebrated military kids with Kermit the Frog. I asked folks across the country to wear their alma mater’s T-shirts for College Signing Day.





And at the end of the day, by staying true to the me I’ve always known, I found that this journey has been incredibly freeing. Because no matter what happened, I had the peace of mind of knowing that all of the chatter, the name calling, the doubting -- all of it was just noise. It did not define me. It didn’t change who I was. And most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back. I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values -- and follow my own moral compass -- then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.

So, graduates, that’s what I want for all of you. I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves. I want you to ask those basic questions: Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back? And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.


Maybe it feels like you’re supposed to go to law school -- but what you really want to do is to teach little kids. Maybe your parents are expecting you to come back home after you graduate -- but you’re feeling a pull to travel the world. I want you to listen to those thoughts. I want you to act with both your mind, but also your heart. And no matter what path you choose, I want you to make sure it’s you choosing it, and not someone else.

Because here’s the thing -- the road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me. Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is that those age-old problems are stubborn and they haven’t fully gone away. So there will be times, just like for those Airmen, when you feel like folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are.

The world won’t always see you in those caps and gowns. They won’t know how hard you worked and how much you sacrificed to make it to this day -- the countless hours you spent studying to get this diploma, the multiple jobs you worked to pay for school, the times you had to drive home and take care of your grandma, the evenings you gave up to volunteer at a food bank or organize a campus fundraiser. They don't know that part of you.

Instead they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives -- the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help” -- and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.

And I know that these little indignities are obviously nothing compared to what folks across the country are dealing with every single day -- those nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason; the fear that your job application will be overlooked because of the way your name sounds; the agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal; the realization that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen -- for some folks, it will never be enough.

And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. It can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter -- that you’re like the invisible man that Tuskegee grad Ralph Ellison wrote about all those years ago. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real. They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.

But, graduates, today, I want to be very clear that those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up. Not an excuse. They are not an excuse to lose hope. To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose.

But here’s the thing -- our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together -- then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together -- together -- we can overcome anything that stands in our way...


read the full address: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/09/remarks-first-lady-tuskegee-university-commencement-address



watch (fixed link):


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Arrow 46 replies Author Time Post
Reply Heartbreaking our first black First Lady encountered such hostility - uplifting how she overcame it (Original post)
bigtree May 2015 OP
still_one May 2015 #1
riderinthestorm May 2015 #4
madokie May 2015 #6
Person 2713 May 2015 #7
JustAnotherGen May 2015 #2
dawg May 2015 #3
JustAnotherGen May 2015 #8
Number23 May 2015 #24
JustAnotherGen May 2015 #33
Doctor_J May 2015 #14
RichVRichV May 2015 #28
JustAnotherGen May 2015 #32
heaven05 May 2015 #41
Number23 May 2015 #42
heaven05 May 2015 #40
heaven05 May 2015 #39
cali May 2015 #5
mountain grammy May 2015 #9
Iliyah May 2015 #10
secondwind May 2015 #11
llmart May 2015 #12
bigtree May 2015 #13
okaawhatever May 2015 #15
imnew May 2015 #16
ismnotwasm May 2015 #17
roguevalley May 2015 #18
PatSeg May 2015 #19
BumRushDaShow May 2015 #20
hopemountain May 2015 #21
Rex May 2015 #22
lovemydog May 2015 #23
yardwork May 2015 #25
Jack-o-Lantern May 2015 #26
flying rabbit May 2015 #27
jwirr May 2015 #29
McCamy Taylor May 2015 #30
BrotherIvan May 2015 #31
Post removed May 2015 #34
bigtree May 2015 #35
geek tragedy May 2015 #36
heaven05 May 2015 #38
heaven05 May 2015 #37
Midnight Writer May 2015 #43
redruddyred May 2015 #45
redruddyred May 2015 #44
BlueMTexpat May 2015 #46

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 08:36 AM

1. What Michelle and the President have had to put up with only demonstrates that

racism is alive and well in the U.S.

Both her and the president stand very tall among very small people

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Response to still_one (Reply #1)

Wed May 13, 2015, 09:30 AM

4. +1 nt

 

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Response to still_one (Reply #1)

Wed May 13, 2015, 09:36 AM

6. Exactly, and right on

I'm ashamed of some of the people who call themselves Americans, especially the ones who claim to be Christians also

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Response to madokie (Reply #6)

Wed May 13, 2015, 11:29 AM

7. A lot of Christians claim Obama is not a citizen And not a Christian too!

Can't face the truth so they go for lies and hate

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 08:44 AM

2. 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

But WHAT about the hostility towards Snowden, Assange, Manning, Warren, and Bernie?

*sigh* I'm book marking this for later - I fear however this is just another way for the far left to be sick twists and throw elbows. They are just as bad as those on the far right when it comes to this sweetheart.

Ones on the right are just racist vindictive little assholes.

Ones on the left just pooh pooh it because some white guy had it worse.

justanothergen is TOTALLY unleashed today.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #2)

Wed May 13, 2015, 09:27 AM

3. I don't think I've ever seen anyone on the left go after Mrs. Obama.

In general, I think first ladies get way too much negative attention anyway. They live in a fishbowl and are criticized for some of the silliest things.

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Response to dawg (Reply #3)

Wed May 13, 2015, 11:51 AM

8. Hmm

They'll dismiss it and say 'Well once in the first grade someone yelled 'cracker cut' so my experience is far worse than anything she went through.'

I also think if you hopped into the African American group here - you'd see there an awful lot of us giving sideways looks at SOME liberals/progressives who are really libertarians and former Republicans who didn't get their pony (that the Republicans promised) but never quite let go of that 'Welfare Queen Meme'.

Just sayin . . . It's been the general tone of America for as long as I can remember. Some wealthy white guy always had it worse than the marginalized and minorities. I'm just sick to death of this bullshit.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #8)

Wed May 13, 2015, 07:33 PM

24. Girl, you know that the African American group here is "unhealthy" remember?

Some people here would be ever so pleased if we were only seen and not heard.

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Response to Number23 (Reply #24)

Thu May 14, 2015, 04:52 AM

33. Yeah - I noticed!

He's right below in case you have him on ignore!

Maybe - just maybe hearing it from Michelle herself - what we've seen . . . The abject hatred thrown at this woman based solely upon the color of her skin - will knock some sense into them?

BTW - I'm no hippie. I'm going to put on Brooks Brothers finest on and head into work in a bit. Someone has to earn the pennies to donate to the G.E. Candidate in 2016. And let me tell you - the Liberal PACs allow me to give all I want.

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Response to dawg (Reply #3)

Wed May 13, 2015, 02:29 PM

14. No, but don't interrupt the hippy-punching at DU

 

At DU, as in Glenbeckistan, liberals are to blame for everything.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #2)

Thu May 14, 2015, 12:46 AM

28. Really?

You're blaming the left for the problems in this country? The same left that is out there fighting for the civil and economic rights of everyone daily?

If you want someone to blame, why don't you start with the middle (who's in power) or the right (who's full of racists). Why you would use this thread to attack the one group who's out to help everyone that could use some help is beyond me.



Us on the left are multi-taskers. We'll fight for the rights of the poor and middle class, the rights of minorities, the rights of women, and the rights of privacy and equal justice. Of course constantly fighting against injustice makes us easy punching bags. We're used to it at this point.

I'm sorry something else is getting more attention currently, there's only so many things we can try to improve in a given day. Sometimes we have to focus on one thing to be heard, to the detriment of others.

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Response to RichVRichV (Reply #28)

Thu May 14, 2015, 04:42 AM

32. You have been here since 2012

And have ten posts. So you read a lot.

You obviously have missed the white privilege threads where Libertarian invaders - as I like to call them - IndieTeaPublicans - point out time and again how bad white men have it. Example AverageJoe90 who has now been booted.

I relate to Michelle Obama. I remember when the Code Pink crazy lady interrupted her at an event that had nothing to do with any of her issues - and DUers applauding her for her total lack of respect. I'd say Code Pink is pretty far far left - wouldn't you?

I've also had to tip toe around the fact that not all champions of the groups you mentioned haven't always been on the Left - as a matter of fact as late as 1994 one in particular was strongly aligned with the Republican Party. That's the year they coasted into the House and Senate on Welfare Queen memes. . . I'm not the only black woman in my 40's at DU who doesn't know precisely who they were talking about.

So yep - I took this thread to do that. But there are prejudiced, sexist, homophobic and ant Semitic people that walk among us. They are fellow travelers in regards to economic justice - but if they could throw me or Michelle under the bus - they would. And if you can't see that - that the 60's are dead - we can't have a discussion.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #32)

Thu May 14, 2015, 11:23 AM

41. +1000

 

so true..

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #32)

Thu May 14, 2015, 05:57 PM

42. Oh girl, you just won DU with this post.

So yep - I took this thread to do that. But there are prejudiced, sexist, homophobic and ant Semitic people that walk among us. They are fellow travelers in regards to economic justice - but if they could throw me or Michelle under the bus - they would. And if you can't see that - that the 60's are dead - we can't have a discussion.



you just won DU with this post

Sorry for such a sucky prize!

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Response to RichVRichV (Reply #28)

Thu May 14, 2015, 11:21 AM

40. yeah, yeah, yeah

 

geez expected and fullfilled.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #2)

Thu May 14, 2015, 11:18 AM

39. +1000

 

true

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 09:32 AM

5. Great speech from a very gracious lady.

 

thanks for posting it.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 12:00 PM

9. wonderful speech from a great First Lady

One of , if not the best First Lady of my lifetime.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 12:43 PM

10. K & R

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 12:45 PM

11. This FLOTUS is one of a kind... we may not see another like her.. so much CLASS!

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Response to secondwind (Reply #11)

Wed May 13, 2015, 12:56 PM

12. The entire First Family.....

are about as classy as it gets and that includes the wonderful grandmother.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 02:08 PM

13. »

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 02:40 PM

15. Big K & R nt

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 02:47 PM

16. For the longest time a few guys at my work would call her Chewbacca

 

I told them several times that it was racist .

They always would counter that it wasn't that it was just a joke term they used but I never thought it to be funny in the least

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 02:51 PM

17. I love her.

What an inspiring, impassioned speech. An incredible woman.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 03:03 PM

18. she is glorious

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 03:42 PM

19. That was an extraordinary speech

I wouldn't be surprised if history will be quoting her in the future. She is quite unlike any first lady we've ever had. In the same league perhaps as Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 05:20 PM

20. Thank you for posting



Tuskegee has so much history behind it and the significance of her speech is poignant but important.



(Booker T. Washington monument @ Tuskegee University (originally "Tuskegee Institute"

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 06:54 PM

21. she has a strength and a way of inspiring

those who face continued scrutiny becasue of who they are - excellent touchtones and real nuggets of inspiration and affirmation:

"So, graduates, that’s what I want for all of you. I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves. I want you to ask those basic questions: Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back? And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.


Maybe it feels like you’re supposed to go to law school -- but what you really want to do is to teach little kids. Maybe your parents are expecting you to come back home after you graduate -- but you’re feeling a pull to travel the world. I want you to listen to those thoughts. I want you to act with both your mind, but also your heart. And no matter what path you choose, I want you to make sure it’s you choosing it, and not someone else.

Because here’s the thing -- the road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me. Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is that those age-old problems are stubborn and they haven’t fully gone away. So there will be times, just like for those Airmen, when you feel like folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are."

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 06:56 PM

22. You know...if she ran for POTUS, I would vote for her in a heartbeat.

 

Jus sayin...

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 07:10 PM

23. Thanks very much bigtree.

This post reminds me why I read here.

Like you, I will read this speech again and again.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 10:06 PM

25. Beautiful, inspiring speech. Thank you for posting.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 10:53 PM

26. I doubt if this country...

...will ever have a more gracious, intelligent, and beautiful first lady as Michelle Obama.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Wed May 13, 2015, 11:24 PM

27. Effing fantastic!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu May 14, 2015, 01:06 AM

29. I cannot begin to understand how she puts up with the whole thing. But one thing I have often

seen is how she and her husband support each other. When you look at pictures of them together you can see very plainly the love and respect they have for each other. My guess it that is what sustains both of them.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu May 14, 2015, 03:39 AM

30. Michelle!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu May 14, 2015, 03:42 AM

31. Speechless...

She is so amazing and that speech is worthy of being studied.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)


Response to Post removed (Reply #34)

Thu May 14, 2015, 07:47 AM

35. no, we're talking about very real and ingrained notions about worth and value of blacks in America

...it's interesting that you've used a debunked canard about Michelle Obama's former salary to define her - even more notable that you define her by the actions of her husband in office, rather than judge her on her own merits.

I'll leave what I really feel about your post aside and let the facts speak for themselves about your debunked smear....


from Annenbeurgs Factcheck.org:

Q: Did Michelle Obama make $317,000 a year while working part-time at the University of Chicago Medical Center?

A: This allegation in a chain e-mail is wrong: Obama’s reported income was $103,633 in 2007, the year she reduced her work schedule to part time.


The anonymous author of this chain e-mail expands upon an opinion piece from the conservative National Review and gets the facts wrong in the process.

On Jan. 9, 2009, the University of Chicago Medical Center officially announced that Michelle Obama had resigned from her post as vice president for community and external affairs to join her husband, then-President-elect Barack Obama, in the White House as the new first lady of the United States.

Michelle Obama had been promoted in 2005 to vice president for community and external affairs after three years as the executive director for community affairs. It’s true, as the e-mail (and National Review column) says, that she received a sizable pay raise that year. She went from earning $121,910 in 2004 as an executive director at the hospital to making $316,962 in 2005 as a vice president, according to tax returns filed by the Obamas for those years. But the suggestion made by the email’s author – and not made by the National Review – that she was being paid more than $300,000 for a "20 hour a week job" is not true.

University of Chicago Medical Center spokesman John Easton said Mrs. Obama didn’t reduce her work schedule from full time to part time until 2007 when it became clear that her husband would run for president. "As she reduced her hours, beginning early in 2007, her salary decreased proportionately," Easton told us in an e-mail. "She switched to half time shortly before her husband formally announced his campaign, then to 20% later that year and to 0% in 2008."

In fact, Mrs. Obama’s income in 2006, a year after her promotion, had decreased to $273,618. And for 2007 (the year she actually started working part-time), her income was $103,633, according to the couple’s tax return for that year. She took an "unpaid leave of absence to work on her husband’s presidential campaign" in 2008, but still received $62,709 from the hospital. However, Easton noted that her final reported salary "consists of accumulated but unused vacation time plus the final payout from a supplemental executive retirement plan."

Easton said the nearly $317,000 figure is "misleading" anyway because it includes more than just her salary. He said the figure "also includes a performance bonus, a one-time signing bonus (she had other, competing offers at the time), and a one-time mandatory payout from a terminated retirement plan." This is reflected in the fact that her 2006 earnings were less than in 2005.

The first lady, a graduate of both Princeton University and Harvard Law School, was quite accomplished before she joined the University of Chicago in 1996 and ultimately the medical center in 2002. Her prior work experience included stints as an associate with the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago’s City Hall and executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies.

A significant portion of the text in this chain e-mail is a reproduction of part of a column that appeared in the Feb. 9 issue of National Review; the New York Post also ran part of the magazine’s "The Week" piece on Jan. 24. (The portion of the column reprinted in this e-mail ends with the comment about Roland Burris’ wife.) It’s worth noting that the column makes some implications about Michelle Obama’s former job that are more speculation than fact.

For one, the column suggests that Barack Obama’s election to the U.S. Senate in 2004 had a role in his wife’s promotion and pay increase in 2005. We can’t say what the hospital’s motivation was for promoting her. But Michael Riordan, who served as the medical center’s president at the time, told the Chicago Tribune that it had nothing to do with her husband. "She was hired before Barack was Barack,” Riordan told the newspaper. "She is worth her weight in gold, and she is just terrific." The Tribune reported that Riordan "had planned early on for the position [of executive director of community affairs] to evolve into a vice president’s post as a way of showing the organization’s commitment to community outreach." Riordan said: "I knew where I wanted to go with this position. … I wanted to identify someone to grow into it." And Easton said at the time that her increased salary was in line with those of other vice presidents at the medical center, who were earning between $291,000 and $362,000, according to the newspaper.

Second, the column implies that her "networking" was what caused her then-senator husband to request a "$1 million earmark for the UC Medical Center" back in 2006. But that’s unsubstantiated also. He did request the funds for the "construction of a new hospital pavilion" at the University of Chicago, but both Obama and hospital officials denied that the request was influenced by his wife’s position. And during the campaign, Obama’s aides were quick to point out that the request was one of many projects that the former senator made in 2005 and 2006 that were killed by Congress.

Lastly, the column questioned the hospital’s decision not to fill the position vacated by the first lady, asking: "How can that be, if the work she did was vital enough to be worth $317,000?" It’s true that after her departure, the hospital did not fill the position of vice president for community and external affairs. But the column doesn’t mention that she had reduced her work schedule to part time well before she left and wasn’t making that much money when she officially resigned. Easton told us that "the responsibilities related to that position have been absorbed by those in other roles." Dr. James Madara, CEO of the Medical Center, announced that the Office of Community and External Affairs would be "reorganized" under Dr. Eric Whitaker, executive vice president for strategic affiliations, according to a hospital press release.

– D’Angelo Gore

Sources

Barack and Michelle Obama Tax Returns for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Press Release. "Michelle Obama resigns position at University of Chicago Medical Center". University of Chicago Medical Center, 9 Jan. 2009.

Press Release. "Michelle Obama appointed vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals." University of Chicago Medical Center, 9 May 2005.

Donmoyer, Ryan J. "Obamas Earned $4.2 Million in 2007, Tax Returns Show." Bloomberg.com, 16 April 2008.

Dorning, Mike, Jaspen, Bruce and Mendell, David. "Employer: Michelle Obama’s raise well-earned." chicagotribune.com, 27 Sept. 2006.

Drew, Christopher, and Becker, Jo. "Obama Lists His Earmarks, Asking Clinton For Hers." The New York Times, 14 March 2008.

"The Week." National Review, 9 Feb. 2009.

"Replacing Michelle." New York Post, 24 Jan. 2009.

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Response to Post removed (Reply #34)

Thu May 14, 2015, 07:56 AM

36. Nice stale rightwing, racist & sexist talking points

 

Your breezy dismissal of racism in America is what is known as a 'tell'

You don't belong here

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #36)

Thu May 14, 2015, 11:06 AM

38. and.....

 

this individual you are responding to, barely got hidden, 4-3...THAT tells me a lot about sensibilities here concerning FLOTUS. That's a "tell" also.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu May 14, 2015, 10:58 AM

37. THIS is a GREAT WOMAN and LEADER

 

Last edited Thu May 14, 2015, 11:29 AM - Edit history (1)

yesterday, today and tomorrow. YES!!!!! My POTUS and FLOTUS are two of the most human and graceful leaders I have seen in my life. Yet because of their brown skin, MANY ignorant racist pigs want to diminish their worth. How very sad.

And as an aside, the WHITE bomber crews requested/demanded those Tuskegee airmen, because they NEVER lost a plane they were escorting.

I won't go on because my anger and disgust is growing and I don't want to offend the sensibilities of some enablers on here.

FLOTUS is saying it here with much more grace than I feel at the moment. Politics aside, they are two exemplary human beings, outshining ANY that have occupied that high office in generations and I wish Michelle would run for POTUS. She wouldn't win of course. The RW media and politicians have had too much experience in poisoning the minds of amerikkkans against minorities these last 6+ years. A woman that is a POC? Running for the WH, again??? Get ready for the tears from those who want THEIR WH back...again.. The racists would have conniption fits and would take to the streets like Rosewood(1923) and Tulsa(1921) to name just two of many white uprisings against blacks in america.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri May 15, 2015, 03:18 AM

43. What if Laura Bush were treated the same as Hillary or Michelle?

Laura has an interesting background of her own, to say the least, yet most people are totally unaware of it.

While Hillary and Michelle are criticized for everything from their hairdos to their outfits to their physical appearance, and every word they ever said (or often didn't say) is scrutinized, parsed and condemned by not only the right wing media, but the "mainstream media" as well.

Can you imagine the media firestorm if Hillary or Michelle had ever in their past been, say, convicted of manslaughter for slaying their ex-boyfriend?

Yet I cannot recall a single media criticism of Laura for her appearance, her speeches, or her background.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

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Response to Midnight Writer (Reply #43)

Fri May 15, 2015, 04:50 AM

45. women who slay their boyfriends don't get manslaughter

 

they get jail for life.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri May 15, 2015, 04:48 AM

44. both michelle and barack have not been treated well by certain cohorts of our populace

 

before they realized I was a liberal I used to have to listen to casual racist remarks from various friends of family. none of which I will repeat here.
deffo one of our better first ladies, hillary is another which stands out.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri May 15, 2015, 06:34 AM

46. Frankly, I would have loved to see

Michelle as a candidate for US President in 2016. She would be formidable, IMO.

But after all that she and Barack have had to deal with, perhaps they both need some well-deserved time to recharge their batteries.

Whatever they do post their WH tenure, I am certain that both will continue trying to improve the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

Both make me VERY proud and humble, especially in light of the obstacles they had to overcome, and the way that both retain their essential and admirable humanity in spite of all.

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