THE SANTA CLARA
January 11, 2017
When one of the most intelligent, well qualified, politically active First Ladies of the Unites States speaks, America listens.
As Michelle Obama fought back tears during her final speech as First Lady, I could not help but tear up myself. Listening to her final remarks, I felt motivated, supported and inspired. I was also reminded of the amazing woman she is and the work she has done for this country.
During an event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year, she spoke largely about education and had a strong message for young people. She reminded everyone that her goal as First Lady was to “make education cool.” Throughout the past eight years, she has dedicated herself tirelessly to this goal. In addition to her husband’s efforts, college signing day is a national event, high school graduation rates are at an all time high and there has been the largest investment in higher education since the GI bill.
Growing up, my parents always reminded me of the importance of education. They were unable to attend college, so they did everything possible to provide me with that opportunity. Through their own sacrifices and my hard work, I was able to make it to where I am today. Although I am a first generation college student, I have had the privilege of being a part of the LEAD scholars program that provides me with the tools to be successful in my college experience. I understand the First Lady’s message and the work she has done to make this a possibility for more Americans.
However, I also understand that not everyone is so lucky. There are certain limitations and obstacles that prevent this from being a reality for every young person. Even surviving high school may be impossible for some. Whether it be due to socioeconomics, race, gender, sexuality or religion, not everyone can pursue education and attain the American Dream. That’s the reality Michelle Obama acknowledges in her speech but nonetheless fights for.
Beyond education, she shared her sentiments regarding diversity and unity in our country. Her message that “no matter where you are from, no matter how much money your parents have, no matter how they worship or who they love or what language they speak at home, they have a place in this country,” is a beautiful one, yet it is not necessarily the reality we live in.
Much of what she said contrasts greatly with the message of our president-elect, Donald Trump. He has promoted quite the opposite, in which he values the wealthy while alienating and threatening marginalized groups, the same people that Obama is referring to.
While I cherish her statement that “our glorious diversity—our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds—that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are,” it is not an idea that Trump has promoted. Rather his rhetoric has not only created division, but true fear amongst marginalized communities. Many have reason to fear for what will happen come Jan. 20.
The presidency of Donald Trump is a source of celebration for many, but for the groups he has attacked, threatened and disrespected, it is a nightmare come true. It is an utter violation to our sense of safety and belonging, which was already fragile to begin with. While racism, sexism, xenophobia and general intolerance has existed since the beginning of this country, with this election we have seen how much more progress still needs to be made. I, along with many, are left wondering, what can we possibly do to fight for our freedoms and finally attain equality?
While the answer to this question is complex, Obama reminded me that despite this time of fear, we must remember to have hope. She reminds us to never let anyone make us feel like we do not matter or that we do not have a place here. Yet as she says, “you cannot take your freedoms for granted.” She reminds us that we must continue the fight what generations before us have been fighting, in order to preserve these freedoms.
This idea of hope is what brought me to tears while I heard Obama’s final speech. It is what will keep me going throughout not just this upcoming presidency, but through the many obstacles I am sure I will face in the future. Despite the limitations I face, and the ones I see placed on others, I will continue to lead with hope. Not out of naivety or foolishness, but because I believe in the message of “glorious diversity” Obama promotes. And I know that I must fight to protect my freedoms and rights as many brave heroes have done before me. As Michelle Obama said, education supplies us with the tools to make a difference and continue this fight.
Veronica Marquez is a sophomore communication and ethnic studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.