During commencement exercises at a South Side Chicago high school, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged students to work every day to change the narrative that comes out of troubled black communities.
The First Lady expressed her own frustrations with the media and people who focused more on the troubles of communities like South Side instead of the every day successes from hard working families.
“Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago… They don’t believe you are real,” she said.
Obama insisted that the high school graduates could change that narrative, just like she and her husband Barack did at the White House.
“With every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities,” she said. “And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House. Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths.”
During her speech, the First Lady recognized the death of one of their classmates, Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago just days after she attended Obama’s second term inauguration.
Pendleton’s death quickly became a rallying point for activists against gun violence, which the First Lady praised.
“If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence — then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life,” Obama said. “I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.”