I just finished reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and was so inspired by her humble beginnings, hard work, values of education and family, and drive to help other people who were from meager beginnings have tools so that they too could have the hope of a better future.
Michelle Obama went on to go to undergraduate at Princeton and then law school at Harvard. Michelle was recruited by a prestigious law firm where she worked and eventually met her husband Barack, whom the firm was trying to recruit.
Michelle Obama grew up on the Southside of Chicago in an 800 square foot apartment above her aunt’s home. She learned early in life that she could impress others by telling them her goals for the future and this became her drive to achieve, and achieve she did.
But Michelle found little satisfaction in working for billable hours and reading through hours of countless contracts in order to prepare for cases that would eventually settle out of court. She yearned to make a difference and bridge the gap between where she grew up and what she knew was possible through education, adults that cared and mentored children, and hope. For this reason she went on to work in the mayor’s office, University of Chicago, Public Allies, and University of Chicago Medical Center where her focus was on bridging the gap between the South Side and the rest of the world.
While I find all of this fascinating and inspiring, I am equally angry.
I’m angry that because I just used the name Michelle Obama, half of this country and 90% of my followers will not like this blog. That is how polarized this country has become. If the name Laura Bush were inserted in this space rather than Michelle Obama, 90% of my followers would love, share, and rave about this post.
What a sad phenomenon that we can’t look at each other as people and applaud achievements based on merit. Rather, we chose to discount, disparage, and look for the bad or good in public figures based on whether they are red or blue!
We chose to support or not support movements based on what the red and blue dictate. We condone and applaud behaviors based on who is blue and who is red. We like or ignore information based on if it’s provided by the red team or the blue team.
This is not healthy, safe, or admirable and can cause us to ignore and look the other way when we need to stand up. It can cause us to back away and not toward movements that are lined up with our values.
Like Michelle Obama expressed, when talking to a group of students who live in a daily fear of gang violence, I have very little hope in the red or the blue. I have very little hope in the idea that politicians will change and cross partisan lines. I have very little hope that votes will be made and bills will be passed based on the merit of the right thing above the lure of the dollar from big businesses who are padding campaign funds.
Like her, what I do have hope in is people. I have hope in us, that we can chose to ignore the red and the blue and instead look at the heart of the person right in front of us, the value of doing things to make this world a better place, and in some way, in some future, things will change.
Michelle Obama reflected after meeting Nelson Mandela that “Progress and change happen slowly. Not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime. We are planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We have to be patient.”
We are the catalysts of change and I believe in our ability to change the world … one person … and one small victory at a time!