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Image / Editorial

Michelle Obama’s latest wise life lessons apply to us all


by Jennifer McShane
22nd Jun 2020
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The former first lady didn’t shy away from uncomfortable questions and truths in her Dear Class of 2020 speech, but ultimately, as ever, her words were a balm to bruised souls. Her words apply, regardless of age


Michelle Obama always knows what to say. She never dances around difficulty, but she always can see the light – even if we can’t yet ourselves.

She began her speech revealing that she too feels overwhelmed by the current state of the world. “If any of you are scared, or confused, or angry, or just plain overwhelmed by it all, if you feel like you’re searching for a lifeline just to steady yourself, you are not alone. I am feeling all of that too. I think we all are.”

Here are some of her most uplifting points:

Take this time to figure out who you want to be

There will be times when it feels like everything has been turned upside down and you will wish things could go back to the way they were – and this is one of them, Obama says. This time isn’t just about focusing on jobs or career moves, but the whole picture. What can we change or do differently that will positively impact not only our lives but the lives of others?

“You have the opportunity to learn these valuable lessons faster than the generations before you,” she says. “You can learn them together as a cohort of young people ready to take on the world, no matter how tumultuous it may be.”

Anger, if used the right way, can change things

“Anger is a powerful force, it can be a useful force. But left on its own it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos on the inside and out. But when anger is focused, when it’s channelled into something more, that is the stuff that changes history.” That “something more” was the recent tragic death of George Floyd and other young black men and women in recent weeks alone. The whole world was angry, and decided – finally, we hope – enough was enough.

Another valuable lesson?

“Treating people right will never, ever fail you.”

And finally, use your voice to to do more

“Sometimes it’s easier to stand with strangers at a protest than it is to challenge someone in your own backyard. So if you hear people express bigoted views or talking down to ‘those people,’ it is up to you to call them out. Because we won’t solve anything if we’re only willing to do what’s easiest. You’ve got to make hard choices and sacrifice. If you’re spending a lot of time just hashtagging and posting, that’s useful, especially during a pandemic, but it’s only a beginning. Go further. Send all your friends a link to register to vote. Text everybody you know to join you to exercising their constitutional right to protest.”

Watch her full speech below:


Read more: Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ documentary is the light we need right now

Read more: ‘The past few weeks have dredged up difficult memories’– growing up as Irish-Nigerian in Ireland