FLOTUS at Oberlin College: Much Ado about Something

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There’s a reason that William Shakespeare referred to jealousy as a theme in his plays. In “The Merchant of Venice” (1596), Shakespeare likened jealousy to serious illness because on occasion, the skin of very sick people turns a shade of yellowish green. In “Othello” (1604), Shakespeare called jealousy a green-eyed monster which forces people to say and do things they wouldn’t under normal circumstances. Envy is the fuel which propels jealousy. So what are we to make of the right’s hateration towards Michelle Obama? The First Lady appearing anywhere drives conservatives to distraction. Anything she says publicly is subject to immediate condemnation by Republican leaders and pundits. The latest example of the Grand Old Party’s apoplectic behavior was demonstrated in its reaction to FLOTUS’s commencement address at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio on Memorial Day. The First Lady’s message to Oberlin’s graduates was a love letter wrapped in red, white, and blue. The GOP’s fake outrage about her commencement speech was/is a deep shade of seafoam green: when they see her, they turn green and start foaming at the mouth. I’ll cite Shakespeare once more in the title of this op-ed piece. Instead of his "Much Ado about Nothing," today I give you "Much Ado about Something."
Here are some excerpts from FLOTUS commencement speech: “Hi! How are you all doing? Well, let me just tell you, it is beyond a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you today. I should be here today. Oberlin is likely the only college in America that I could have attended nearly two centuries ago, and I am honored to be part of the extraordinary legacy of this great institution. So I’m here today because I’m proud of you all. I really am. I’m inspired by your commitment to service and social justice. And I’m impressed by the community that you all have created here – a warm, supportive, inclusive community that embodies the values that define this school.
“And the truth is, graduates, after four years of thoughtful, respectful discussion and debate here at Oberlin – those seminars where you explored new ideas together, those late-night conversations where you challenged each other and learned from each other — after all of that, you might find yourself a little dismayed by the clamor outside these walls – the name-calling, the negative ads, the folks yelling at each other on TV. After being surrounded by people who are so dedicated to serving others and making the world a better place, you might feel a little discouraged by the polarization and gridlock that too often characterize our politics and civic life.
“And in the face of all of that clamor, you might have an overwhelming instinct to just run the other way as fast as you can. And that’s completely understandable. In fact, I sometimes have that instinct myself – run!
“Graduates, I want to urge you to do just the opposite. Today, I want to suggest that if you truly wish to carry on the Oberlin legacy of service and social justice, then you need to run to, and not away from, the noise. Today, I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find. Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens – the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds.
“Now, the process of democracy might not always be as fast or as smooth as we’d like. But the fact is, it works. Generation after generation, this country has become more equal, more inclusive, more fair, more free. My life and so many of your lives are a testament of that truth. But that has only happened because folks like all of you left their comfort zones and made their voices heard.
You see, it’s wonderful to volunteer at your local homeless shelter – please do that – but you also need to attend the city council meetings and make sure the zoning laws don’t shut that shelter down. Are you thinking of teaching in an under-served school? If so, I’m glad to hear that. So many kids need you. But you’ve also got to elect good people to your school board and state legislature, because they decide whether you have the resources you need to inspire and empower your students.
“See, graduates, this is what happens when you turn your attention outward and decide to brave the noise and engage yourself in the struggles of our time.”
FLOTUS asked the graduates to stay informed, to give back, and to be patriotic. She charged them to be good Americans, not good Democrats. She challenged them to live in love, not in fear. To believe and achieve. What’s evil about that?
Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, and the usual suspects on the right need to chill out. Don't hate, congratulate. Emulate. Assimilate. I know, know. It ain't easy being green, but ignorance isn't an excuse.
Friends, watch Michelle Obama's speech on YouTube. If you do, you’ll be inspired, not infuriated. This is much ado about something – positive.

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