June 10, 2015

Michelle Obama returned to her childhood roots this week to address graduates of Chicago's King College Prep School and remember Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old student who was shot a week after performing at the 2012 inaugural.

Her address was a call to the students to keep pressing forward for change.

If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in to protest gun violence -- then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life. I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.

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.) Because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us, or it can change those myths. (Applause.)

So, graduates, today, I want you all to join our team as we fight to get out the truth about our communities -- about our inner cities and our farm towns, our barrios, our reservations. You need to help us tell our story -- the story of Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright, the story of my family and your families, the story of our sacrifice, our hunger, our hard work.

Graduates, starting today, it is your job to make sure that no one ever again is surprised by who we are and where we come from. (Applause.) And you know how I know you can do this? Because you all -- graduates of the King College Prep High School. You all are from so many proud communities -- North Kenwood, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park -– I could go on and on. You embody all of the courage and love, all of the hunger and hope that have always defined these communities –- our communities.

When we look back on this era ten years from now, I believe one of the most powerful changes this administration has brought will be a difference in how the Black community is viewed. Sure, there will always be the bigots, but there will also be the Deray McKessons, and other young organizers who are undeterred by the old tropes and motivated to do what the First Lady called them to do -- change the narrative.

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