When I think about who most inspires me, one of the first people that come to mind is First Lady Michelle Obama. For me, the First Lady is not only a portrait of African-American womanhood, but of womanhood, period. By her living example, she's shown me that consciousness of mind, humility of heart, the courage to show up fully every day, and a sure determination to serve, is all that's needed to make change happen. That's what she told a church full of young African women last summer as she spoke to them about the female leaders of the generation before:
“These young women could not be content with their own comfort and success when they knew that other people were struggling. You see, that’s how people of conscience view the world. It’s the belief, as my husband so often says, that if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she’s not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well. And in the end, that sense of interconnectedness, that depth of compassion, that determination to act in the face of impossible odds, those are the qualities of mind and heart I hope will define your generation.”
This spirit of womanhood and service flows through all the work the First Lady has done.
That's why when I read MORE magazine's article about a mentoring program that she started shortly after her arrival at the White House, it came as no surprise that a new leadership role only meant expanded opportunities for service. It's meant things like young people having a chance to be mentored by the First Lady and senior staff at the White House. It's meant that because of the Let's Move! Initiative, I and thousands of people in my city who live in food deserts can now walk into our local Walgreens and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It's meant that military families can get the extra support they need because of movements like Joining Forces. Like her husband, the First Lady has brought real change to real lives.
But continuing the change depends on us now more than ever before. We have to work together to build a place where our children can get an education that inspires them to be the innovators of our future; where people can get the training they need to secure jobs to put food on the table or buy a home; where no one has to hide who they love; and where gender doesn't determine access to health care. It's up to us, in our everyday acts of service, to bring change to our communities all across this nation, and that includes helping make sure that we have four more years to build an America we can all believe in. That includes knocking on doors, hosting house parties for your neighbors and friends, or talking about what the President's done while you're waiting to get your hair cut or done.
Now is such a wonderful opportunity to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. I hope that you’ll join us. Sign up and let us know that you're in for 2012, and then check out this video of the First Lady speaking on African-American women in American culture and history.