On Tuesday, the first lady explained to students how the civil rights movement transformed the nation through grass-roots activism.
“I’m talking about the maids who walked miles home from work every night during the bus boycotts in Montgomery,” she said. “We won’t know the names of those men and women, and the young people who faced down fire hoses and police dogs and angry mobs. We know some of those names, but we won’t know all of them. I’m talking about the mothers and the fathers who taught their children to stand with dignity during a time when it was hard to get your kids to dream big. But those parents, throughout all that they saw, still taught their kids to dream bigger than the world ever could expect of them.”
“Each of those people played a critical role in the difficult and often dangerous work of building a better future for all of us,” Obama added. “And the thing I want you all to remember, as you watch this film, is that we are here because of that struggle. I’m here because of that struggle. And even though you may think you have some struggles, your paths are a whole lot easier because of the work these men and women did. And today, as a result of their work, we’re living in a more just and more fair society.”
Michelle Obama’s event for students comes one day before President Barack Obama delivers a much-anticipated speech at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered his powerful address to 250,000 people who answered King’s call for racial equality and jobs in 1963.
“So that leads me to something else I want to ask you all and have you think about as you watch the film — a question that Barack and I, we often discuss with our daughters. And that question is, how are you all going to continue what these folks started?” the first lady asked the students. “I want you to think about that. What are you going to do? What will be your contribution? Think about that, because you got to start building up that energy now. It starts now. I want you to think about that. How are you going to make your community and our country safer? Each and every one of you has the power to do that. How are you going to make this entire country more prosperous and more free?”
(Photo: Shevry Lassiter)