Michelle Obama challenges black youth priorities
May 17th, 2013
04:04 PM ET
2 years ago

Michelle Obama challenges black youth priorities

Washington (CNN) – Speaking at the historically black Bowie State University commencement Friday, first lady Michelle Obama called out African American youth for not challenging themselves to excel in school while instead fantasizing about being a "baller or a rapper."

"Today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of Separate But Equal, when it comes to getting an education too many of our young people just can't be bothered," Obama said. "Today instead of walking miles every day to school they're sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV instead of dreaming of being a teacher or lawyer or business leader they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper."

Citing her husband, the first lady urged students to "reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white."

The first lady's address also focused heavily on praising the fortitude of leaders in history, such as Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King Jr., and The Little Rock Nine, who fought to improve educational opportunities for African Americans, despite many challenges they faced.

"It is that kind of unwavering determination - that relentless focus on getting an education in the face of obstacles –that's what we need to reclaim, as a community and as a nation. That was the idea at the very heart of the founding of this school," Obama said.

According to a White House press release, the first lady spoke at Bowie State University "because of its legacy as Maryland's oldest historically black university." It was founded in 1865.

Obama's speech is one of many on her tour of graduation speeches this spring. Last Saturday she spoke at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. She will also be addressing high school graduating seniors at the Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet School in Nashville Tennessee on Saturday.

The speech took place in front of roughly 600 students on Friday at the Comcast Stadium in College Park, Maryland.


Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Wilson

    I agree with her. At this moment she is also sounding like another person I like, Bill Cosby.

    May 17, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. tammyk tammy

    Her call for making education a priority in the minds of students over being entertained applies to all students these days. Kids need to know it takes a lot of money to buy all of those games and computer equipment and big screen TVs. Lots of money requires a good job which usually comes from being educated.

    May 17, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. RIchard Long

    Michelle's words walk a dangerous path, as she can get hit with the backlash. However I definitely applaud her beliefs in pushing for the positive future of Black America Youth.

    May 17, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    Good for her. Of course, someone is bound to come on here to complain about her: just sayin, or some other equally small-minded individual.

    May 17, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. Donna

    It sure doesn't sound like she is very proud of the black youth.

    May 17, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. yeahright

    The Real Tom Paine

    Good for her. Of course, someone is bound to come on here to complain about her: just sayin, or some other equally small-minded individual.

    May 17, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
    -
    You are so right, and you didn't have to wait long.

    May 17, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    -Donna

    It sure doesn't sound like she is very proud of the black youth.
    *************
    Exhibit A: small-minded individual, seeing things that are not there. Its called giving people a wakeup call: did you object when Laura Bush wanted kids to read? Was she calling them lazy, in your opinion?

    May 17, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. Greg

    A white congresswoman would be tagged as a racist if she said the same things about race and motivation and "acting white". Besides, she's addressing college graduates, I don't think motivation and work ethic is much of a problem.

    May 17, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. John Geheran

    Bill Cosby has long been an outspoken advocate of black youth "getting their collective act together". Instead of rallying behind this standup American, many in the Black leadership circle label him "Jim Crow". Brings to mind the oft quoted "we have seen the enemy and they is us".

    May 17, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    Thank you Mrs. Obama. Unfortunately I was one of those students that the others called white. Or at least trying to be white. I tried to explain to them that learning is fun and I enjoy it.

    I instilled the same values in my children. I tell kids all the time they are throwing their future away and spitting in the faces of our ancestors, some of whom were killed simply for learning to read.
    Again, thank you Mrs. Obama!

    May 17, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |