February 13, 2018

Michelle Obama Talk

SPEAKING TO THE MASSES — Former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of 12,000 on Tuesday, February 13, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

When the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana gifted nearly 300 tickets to Indianapolis Public Schools for “A Moderated Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama,” many of the students who received those tickets were filled with emotion.

When Obama took her seat Tuesday night on an oversized chair across from moderator Alecia DeCoudreaux inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, those same students were filled with inspiration as the former first lady encouraged the audience to:

  • Advocate for yourself
  • Know who you are
  • Put in the work
  • Be bold and courageous enough to stand your ground

“I’m so glad I came,” said Crispus Attucks student Lee Ann R. “Michelle Obama is amazing and such an inspiration. I almost cried through the whole thing, because she just reminds you that you can be anything. I feel like I can be anything after tonight.”

The district distributed tickets to female students and chaperones, who were among the 12,000 people in attendance. Several IPS student journalists were invited to be part of the media pool, and a select group of district students were given the opportunity to meet Obama after the event.

Obama’s visit raised $1 million for the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana for women in need.

Below are excerpts from Obama’s speech:

Role Models

“My family and my extended network were my role models. And I say that because a lot of young kids think that a role model has to be someone far away — a former first lady or somebody important. But the truth is for me and for so many people, the most important role models you have are right in front of you.”

Raising Children

“Parents are out there wondering how to give their kids what they need. They have to remember, kids don’t need stuff. I never had a lot of stuff. We were working class poor folks. We felt rich, but we just didn’t have that much. I just want more parents to realize that it’s the time in. It’s not the stuff.  

“My parents couldn’t afford to put me through college.  We took out loans. They didn’t have money to give us, but what they had was that unconditional love, that time and attention. That’s the one thing, even throughout the White House, that we tried to give our girls. Because our girls have seen the world, but when it comes right down to it, all they really care about is whether me and their dad are listening to them, whether we see them. They could care less about what we do, who we know, what we’ve accomplished … they want to know, are we there for them?”

Growing Up as a Minority

“I want (youths) to know that anybody who has been successful, particularly if you are a woman of color, a person of color, you grow up with a lot of doubts in your head … things that you hear, subconscious messages you get from the society around you. It’s that natural drumbeat of doubt because there are people out there that are afraid of you because of the color of your skin. You grow up knowing there are people who decide not to like you because they’ve been told something about you because you’re brown. …”

Dealing with Racism

“You know, you’ve got to grow up. It’s hard to deal with. It’s hard to tell a kid just ignore it. You have to practice ignoring it. You have to practice pushing through it. You have to practice achieving through other people’s low expectations of you. Because you will have that. You will get it in your own family and your own community. There will be people who hold you back because they are afraid for you. So many of our parents and grandparents had a reason to be afraid for us, their young black kids and grandkids. Because the world was dangerous. It’s dangerous for women out in the world today. So, our parents and grandparents had a reason to be afraid for us. And sometimes that fear manifested itself in telling you not to try, because they were afraid for you not to fail.”

Pushing Through to Succeed

“So, what you have to do is get up every day and just do it. Because here’s the thing: There is no magic! I say it again. You are all smart enough. You’re capable enough. And by doing and pushing and raising your hand in class, and getting your homework done, and asking teachers questions, and working hard and persevering, and applying to college and going to college, and sitting around board seats and accepting jobs, and starting stuff and failing a little bit, you learn that you’re just as smart, more often smarter, than the people who were doubting you. You only learn that by doing it. 

“So, go to college, get an education and put yourself in the game. You have to put yourself in the game, and you don’t do that without being prepared. You can’t be at the table if you’re not prepared. Don’t even pretend. If you’re not educated, if you don’t have information, if you’re not on time, if you’re not responsible, if you’re not accountable, you won’t have a chance. But if you do those things, which everybody has the ability to do, then you will succeed at those tables. You will fail, too, but you will succeed and you will learn that you were more than able. So just put the work in. I guess that’s my advice to you. Put the work in and don’t stop yourself before you even try.”