High school students on Chicago’s South Side Tuesday were subjected to a commencement address by first lady Michelle Obama that will burn this into their young minds: The media stinks and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
The first lady’s speech certainly had potential for something deep and meaningful — she knows her vegetables and she’s danced with Jimmy Fallon. But instead of giving the young adults something resembling “The Last Lecture,” a Monica Lewinsky TED talk or, fine, they’d probably get something from a little “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” wisdom as they make their way into the world, she thanked an annoyingly long list of school officials that included the school president, provost, teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, staff, student speakers, singers, musicians, aunts, uncles, guardians, siblings — YAAAAWN — did she think she was at the Oscars? — and then ripped on the media.
Of course, before she did that she wanted to thank Hadiya Pendleton‘s family. Hadiya, who performed with her drill team during President Obama‘s second inauguration, was gunned down in 2013 on her way home from school. She would have graduated Tuesday.
“I want to honor the Pendleton family for their courage and their grace and their love,” the first lady said at the top of her speech. “I love these folks. (Applause.) Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and to my husband and to people across this country and around the world. And we are so grateful for her family’s presence here tonight. Love you all. Love you so much. (Applause.)”
After appropriately talking about how inspired she feels from the faith and sacrifices of this community — after all, this is the part of town where she was born and raised — she unloaded on the media.
“Unfortunately, all those positive things hardly ever make the evening news,” she said. “Instead, the places where we’ve grown up only make headlines when something tragic happens — when someone gets shot, when the dropout rate climbs, when some new drug is ruining people’s lives.
“So too often, we hear a skewed story about our communities — a narrative that says that a stable, hardworking family in a neighborhood like Woodlawn or Chatham or Bronzeville is somehow remarkable; that a young person who graduates from high school and goes to college is a beat-the-odds kind of hero.”
The first lady even tried her own hand at journalism.
“I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story — the real story of the South Side,” she said. “The story of that quiet majority of good folks — families like mine and young people like all of you who face real challenges but make good choices every single day. (Applause.)”
Eventually, inevitably, she returned to Hadiya. (Yes, ahem, Hadiya.)
“Maybe you’ve lost someone you love, someone you desperately wish could be here with you tonight. And I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.”
After giving them basic pieces of advice — ask for help when you need it, let your struggles make you “hungrier” — she returned to the horrible media.
“Because, graduates, in the end, you all are the ones responsible for changing the narrative about our communities. (Applause.) Wherever you go next, wherever you go, you all encounter people who doubt your very existence — folks who believe that hardworking families with strong values don’t exist on the South Side of Chicago, or in Detroit, or in El Paso, or in Indian Country, or in Appalachia. They don’t believe you are real.
“And with every word you speak, with every choice you make, with the way you carry yourself each day, you are rewriting the story of our communities. And that’s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House. (Applause.)”
Good luck guys! Just remember: Whatever happens, blame the media.