Mansfield On Why You Should Read the Whole Speech

Love this piece by Harvey Mansfield in this morning's WSJ: Give Michelle Obama A Break. If you read a speech through instead of relying on a sound bite clipped out of context, you might be surprised at what you find.

Yes, it's true that the First Lady went through a litany of past and present slights against black citizens. But if you read her speech, she really did not do it in the spirit of "hate whitey," nor did she claim that most whites are racists. She was simply frank with the kids that occasionally they'll have it harder or feel slighted because of their race -- and that is no excuse for anything

She's a progressive liberal, so of course not everything she says resonates with me, but its overall message is positive and wholesome: 

Our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win.  It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together -- then we can build ourselves and our communities up.  We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together -- together -- we can overcome anything that stands in our way.And the first thing we have to do is vote.  (Applause.)    Hey, no, not just once in a while.  Not just when my husband or somebody you like is on the ballot.  But in every election at every level, all of the time.  (Applause.)  Because here is the truth -- if you want to have a say in your community, if you truly want the power to control your own destiny, then you’ve got to be involved.  You got to be at the table.  You’ve got to vote, vote, vote, vote.  That’s it; that's the way we move forward. That’s how we make progress for ourselves and for our country.   That’s what’s always happened here at Tuskegee.  Think about those students who made bricks with their bare hands.  They did it so that others could follow them and learn on this campus, too.  Think about that brilliant scientist who made his lab from a trash pile.  He did it because he ultimately wanted to help sharecroppers feed their families.  Those Airmen who rose above brutal discrimination -- they did it so the whole world could see just how high black folks could soar.  That’s the spirit we’ve got to summon to take on the challenges we face today.And you don’t have to be President of the United States to start addressing things like poverty, and education, and lack of opportunity.  Graduates, today -- today, you can mentor a young person and make sure he or she takes the right path.  Today, you can volunteer at an after-school program or food pantry.  Today, you can help your younger cousin fill out her college financial aid form so that she could be sitting in those chairs one day.  (Applause.)  But just like all those folks who came before us, you’ve got to do something to lay the groundwork for future generations.That pilot I mentioned earlier -- Charles DeBow -- he didn’t rest on his laurels after making history.  Instead, after he left the Army, he finished his education.  He became a high school English teacher and a college lecturer.  He kept lifting other folks up through education.  He kept fulfilling his “double duty” long after he hung up his uniform. And, graduates, that’s what we need from all of you.  We need you to channel the magic of Tuskegee toward the challenges of today.  And here’s what I really want you to know -- you have got everything you need to do this.  You’ve got it in you. Because even if you’re nervous or unsure about what path to take in the years ahead, I want you to realize that you’ve got everything you need right now to succeed.  You’ve got it. 
In her own way, she's telling them to be citizens.