Dear Michelle Obama,
Eight years ago, when your husband was first elected, I was in 6th grade. I couldn’t grasp the importance of politics then, nor did I care to. As far as I was aware, the presidency had no real effect on the lives of average Americans, and the election was something adults were merely obligated to care about. Now, in the wake of the most tumultuous election in history, I look back and can’t relate to the blissed complacency I enjoyed back then. I am scared for the social groups I am a part of and those of my loved ones – those that the Obama administration stood for unwaveringly. And despite my fear, I would like to say thank you.
Though there have been many who have expressed their gratitude towards the President, I believe it is important to recognize the unprecedented impact that you as a First Lady have had on our country. You fought for the wellbeing of the nation’s youth, something that has been pushed to the side for far too long, through the “Let’s Move!” campaign. You have supported black children to be strong and fearless in the face of a new age of racism. You have shown what it truly means to be an amazing wife and mother, despite the unique situation your family is in. And you have inspired girls like me to be vocal about our rights and opinions, something that I wish I would have been encouraged to do much sooner.
The word “feminist” is often considered taboo, and your embracement of its usage angered many who fail to recognize the vital role women play in all aspects of America, both past and present. The negativity people have expressed toward your unapologetically pro-women stance has unmasked the ugly face of sexism in our country. Sharing your pride in being a woman of color has also exposed you to racism, both internalized and disgustingly upfront. However, no number of vicious attacks on your identity have weakened your stance in the slightest. You have shown grace and dignity in the face of true discrimination, and I could not ask for a better role model for the youth of America, including my little sister.
The woman I am today is strong and assured. I can and will stand up to those who do not believe in me. I will excel despite being told I cannot. But so much of the confidence I posses I owe to women like you, who told 13-year-old me that I did not need to be shy and soft spoken to be liked, and that to be liked by everyone was not an indicator of success. Who you are – an independent, educated, carefree First Lady who can balance motherhood, political responsibilities, and fun, is a woman I can only hope to emulate throughout my life. Though the election of Donald Trump is a hugely devastating step back for all that you have stood for, you have inspired so many of us to fight against those like him who would like to hold us back. For that, and for so much more, thank you, Michelle Obama. America didn’t deserve you.