Michelle Obama: My Critics Don’t Define Me

At Tuskegee University’s commencement ceremony the First Lady talked about race and how she was perceived during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Michelle Obama spoke candidly about her experience as the first Black First Lady of the United States to Tuskegee University graduates on Saturday.

During her commencement address at the Historically Black College and University in Alabama, Mrs. Obama explained how she eventually realized “the chatter, the name calling, the doubting” she endured as a Black woman during her husband’s 2008 White House campaign “was just noise.”

She admitted that she initially suffered from sleepless nights worrying about what people thought of her, and wondered if she would hurt President Obama’s chance of winning:

“Potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others,” Mrs. Obama said.

Her questions reflected stereotypes Black women often face, such as, “Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating?” she said.

She talked about The New Yorker’s outrageous magazine cover in 2008, which “satirically” showed her as radical or anti-establishment:

Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun,” Mrs. Obama said. “Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me.

Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab.’  And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me.  One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’  Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”

The “terrorist fist jab” and “Obama’s Baby Mama” comments came from FOX News personalities, and Michelle Malkin made the “cronies of color” comment in her book, Culture of Corruption.

However, Mrs. Obama did not let untruths define her.

“I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do, and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me,” she said.

Ms. Obama said when she became the First Lady, she pursued issues that meant a lot to her, such as honoring military families, keeping kids healthy and helping young people value education and complete college.

On Feb. 20, during “Celebrating Women of the Movement,” a Black History Month panel discussion at the White House, she said that education is the most important civil-rights issue of our day.

“[Tuskegee] Airmen who rose above brutal discrimination — they did it so the whole world could see just how high Black folks could soar,” she said.  “That’s the spirit we’ve got to summon to take on the challenges we face today.”

Mrs. Obama told the graduates to ask themselves basic questions.

“Who do you want to be? What inspires you?  How do you want to give back?” she said. “And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.”

Recommended Articles

7 comments


  • As always, Ms. Obama shows poise, dignity and honesty in the face of prejudice. Very admirable.

  • Michelle defined herself quite well back in the 2008 campaign – “First time in my adult life that I’ve been proud of my country”? “Barack, as a black man, could get shot just filling the car with gas” ? She famously, proudly, early and often accentuates her skin color and then later whines when someone seems to maybe have noticed that she’s a black woman. Her school thesis was all about racial division – “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community”. Young Michelle lamented, “I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second.”
    And remember that deal where she complained about being asked to reach stuff off a shelf in Target? First time she told the story, 5’11” Michelle revelled in being asked to reach the top shelf for a tiny person, But later, “Only person who talked to me at Target was some white woman, apparently assuming I was ‘the help’ having me get something down off a shelf!”

  • I think our First Lady is great. I’m proud to call her our Nation’s First Lady. She’s down to earth, relatable and smart. She champions causes that improve the lives of our children and I appreciate that. I’m glad that we have a loving family in the White House, they are an excellent example of what America should be.

  • I am a very proud American to have a President Obama and the first family. It’s sad our racist this country and we are in the twenty first century and still dealing with the good ole boy system.

    I served 22 years in the US Navy and I have seen a huge change since my retirement in 1999. I see more minorities advancing than I did when I first joined the US Navy. However , still that good ole boy system still exist in our Military. Sad , but true ……..VOTE

« Previous Article     Next Article »