Michelle Obama has called on those protesting about the death of George Floyd to channel their anger in a way that will bring real change. The former First Lady made an address to 2020 graduates on Sunday.
“This is an important time of transition. In light of the current state of our country, I struggle to find the right words of wisdom for you today,” Obama said on YouTube.
She said the country’s “foundation has been shaken.”
“Not just by a pandemic that stole too many of our loved ones, upended our daily lives and sent tens of millions into unemployment but also by the rumbling of the age-old fault lines that our country was built on, the lines of race and power that are now once again so nakedly exposed for all of us to grapple with,” she said.
“It’s up to you to march hand in hand with your allies, to stand peacefully with dignity and purpose on the front lines in the fight for justice.”
Obama urged the graduates to “couple every protest with plans and policies, with organizing and mobilizing and voting.”
“Graduates, anger is a powerful force. It can be a useful force, but left on its own, it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos on the inside and out. But when anger is focused, when it’s channeled into something more, oh, that is the stuff that changes history.”
“Dr. King was angry. Sojourner Truth was angry. Lucretia Mott, Cesar Chavez, the folks at Stonewall, they were all angry,” Obama said.
“But those folks were also driven by compassion, by principle, by hope. And so they took advantage of whatever resources they had in their own time.”
Obama urged graduates to register to vote as well as protest against injustices.
“Graduates, this is how you can finish the work that the generations before you have started, by staying open and hopeful even in the tough times, by channeling that discomfort you feel into activism and a democracy that was designed to respond to those who vote.”
Darragh Roche is a journalist covering U.S. politics and media