Quotes by "Michelle Obama"
Our parents had drilled us under the importance of using proper diction, of saying “going” instead of “goin” and “isn’t” instead of “ain’t “. We were taught to finish off words. They bought us a dictionary and a full Encyclopedia Britannica set, which lived on a shelf in the stairwell to our apartment, its titles etched in gold. Any time we had a question about a word, or a concept, or some piece of history, they directed us toward those books. Dandy, too, was an influence, meticulously correcting our grammar and admonishing us to enunciate our words when we went over for dinner. The idea was we were to transcend, to get ourselves further. They’d planned for it. They encouraged it. We were expected not just to be smart but to own our smartness – to inhabit it with pride – and this filtered down to how we spoke.
My parents never sugarcoated what they took to be the harder truths about life. Craig, for example, got a new bike one summer and rode it East to lake Michigan, to the paved pathway along Rainbow Beach, where you could feel the breeze off the water. He’d been promptly picked up by a police officer who accused him of stealing it, unwilling to accept that a young black boy would have come across a new bike in an honest way. (The officer, an African American man himself, ultimately got a brutal tongue-lashing from my mother, who made him apologize to Craig.) What had happened, my parents told us, was unjust, but also unfortunately common. The color of our skin made us vulnerable. Is was a thing we’d always have to navigate.
All of us believe you belong here,” I’d said to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson girls as they sat, many of them looking a little awestruck, in the Gothic old-world dining hall at Oxford, surrounded by university professors and students who’d come out for the day to mentor them. I said something similar anytime we had kids visit the White House—teens we invited from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation; children from local schools who showed up to work in the garden; high schoolers who came for our career days and workshops in fashion, music, and poetry; even kids I only got to give a quick but emphatic hug to in a rope line. The message was always the same. You belong. You matter. I think highly of you. An economist from a British university would later put out a study that looked at the test performances of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson students, finding that their overall scores jumped significantly after I’d started connecting with them—the equivalent of moving from a C average to an A. Any credit for improvement really belonged to the girls, their teachers, and the daily work they did together, but it also affirmed the idea that kids will invest more when they feel they’re being invested in. I understood that there was power in showing children my regard.