“Today, I stand before a sea of young geniuses. Oh, yeah,” said First Lady Michelle Obama in her commencement speech to the graduates of Dillard University in New Orleans on May 10. “And you should be so proud, and so happy, and so excited about your futures. But what you shouldn’t be is satisfied.”
Throughout her remarks, which included several references to the HBCU’s history and its legacy, the enormous sacrifices of those who fought for educational opportunities for Blacks in Louisiana and the obstacles that even some of the graduates overcame to get to their big day, the first lady stressed how important education is. She also urged them to not lose their hunger for higher education and to help others reach that goal, despite many ongoing challenges in African-American and other communities, such as “structural inequality, schools that lag behind, workplace and housing discrimination.”
“That’s still no excuse to stand on the sidelines. Because we know that today, education is still the key to real and lasting freedom — it is still true today,” Obama said. “So it is now up to us to cultivate that hunger for education in our own lives and in those around us.”
The first lady also noted the sacrifice and enormous risks young people around the world have been willing to take to get an education, like the 16-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was nearly assassinated for her advocacy, and the Nigerian girls who’ve been abducted by an extremist group that vehemently opposes education.
“That’s the kind of hunger for education we have to reignite in all of our communities,” Obama told the audience. “When our young people fall behind in school, they fall behind in life.”