Michelle Obama implores JSU grads to overcome discrimination wit - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Michelle Obama implores JSU grads to overcome discrimination with excellence

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The First Lady of the United States drew a record crowd for Jackson State's commencement Saturday, where she implored graduates to overcome adversity and discrimination by rising "above the fray."

"I wish I could say otherwise, graduates, but the question isn't whether you're going to come face to face with these issues. The question is, how are you gonna respond when you do?" Michelle Obama asked the crowd.

Mrs. Obama spent half an hour talking to students, parents, and a crowd of almost 40,000 at Mississippi Veteran's Memorial Stadium, talking about the state's Jim Crow past and reflecting on how civil rights leaders in Mississippi -- including Medgar Evers -- made a difference felt decades later.

"They didn't stoop to the level of those who sought to oppress them. Just the opposite. They rose up. They combated small-mindedness with dignity, integrity and excellence," she said. "Excellence is the most powerful answer you can give to the doubters and the haters."

Mrs. Obama talked about the history of the stadium in which she spoke as well, calling it a "steel and concrete tribute to segregation" in the 1950s, and how its use decades later by JSU -- one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the country -- redefined the stadium's past.

"Yes, we continue to make progress here in America, but we also know that the shadows of the past have not completely disappeared," she said.

She also referenced House Bill 1523 one day after her husband, President Barack Obama criticized North Carolina and Mississippi's laws for being discriminatory.

"We see it right here in Mississippi, just two weeks ago, how swiftly progress can hurdle backward, how easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love," she said. "So we've gotta stand side-by-side with all our neighbors: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Jew, Christian, Hindu, immigrant, Native American. The march for civil rights isn't just about African-Americans, it's about all Americans."

She then discussed the importance of voting with the 2016 grads, pointing out more than half of young African Americans disenfranchise themselves by not voting.

In the 2014 midterm elections, Mrs. Obama said African-American turnout was less than 20 percent, and an even smaller percentage in Mississippi.

"You can hashtag all over Instagram and Twitter, but those social media movements will disappear faster than a Snapchat if you're not also registered to vote," she said.

Mrs. Obama closed by asking those students to honor the legacy of those who've come before them.

"As you say here at Jackson State, 'The world better get ready, cause here y'all come!'" she said to cheers from the crowd.

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