Juniors hear former First Lady speak


Janie Gleaves and Kacee Haslett

On Feb 13, the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana presented  “A Moderated Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama” at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Women’s Fund supplied tickets for student media programs. Trojan Matters staff members Kacee Haslett and Janie Gleaves were able to attend. Photo by Daniel Arthur Jacobson. 

The first thing Michelle Obama said upon entering the stage to a cheering crowd was “Yay back at you!”

This opening line set the tone for the night.

Obama went on to answer questions about everything from fashion to poverty to her love of children. She was well-spoken but concise; professional but relatable; if you hadn’t known she was the former First Lady, you would think she was just somebody’s really cool mom. Throughout the hour, she came back to a few key ideas: get to know yourself and make yourself heard.

“You need to be yourself. When you know who you are, no one can take that from you,” said Obama. She went back to this idea when talking about everything from fashion to job searching. Obama discussed how being the First Lady was made easier by the fact that she is a people person. Her job fit her personality because she knew what worked for her; she knew who she was.

When talking about being a woman in the man’s world of politics, Obama came back to the analogy of a seat at a table. She said that women are often so nervous about getting an opportunity to be heard that they don’t say anything for fear they will lose their “seat at the table.” Obama said everyone, women in particular, must be willing to lose their spot if that means voicing their opinions.

It was intriguing to hear about her time in the White House. It was inspiring to see such a strong woman talk about how she does it. But more than anything, it was moving to see how she affected the other girls in the room, the African-American girls in particular. I felt so extremely happy for my friend Kacee that she could hear her role model speak. Michelle Obama is a role model to everyone in that stadium, but it was palpable the impact she had on the females of color. For me it was a really great thing, for them it was everything; I am truly honored to have witnessed it.

Written by junior Janie Gleaves

Gleaves photographs her ticket with the stage just a few yards away.

At 7:29 p.m. on Feb 13, 2018, I cried in row 17 of Bankers Life Fieldhouse when Former First Lady Michelle Obama took center-stage. She waved to a crowd filled with promising, intelligent, ecstatic young woman—a crowd that I had the opportunity to be a part of.

The Women’s Fund of Central Indiana provided a life-changing opportunity this week. Through our publications program at BCHS, I was able to attend with fellow junior Janie Gleaves and listen to Obama speak.

Throughout my childhood, Obama was a central figure I always looked up to—the epitome of success, class, wisdom and beauty that I aspired to be. On top of that, she looked like me. Growing up, I rarely got to see black girls on TV or in magazines. So, to see one in the White House at 8 years old changed things.

For me, she’s not just an aspiration. She’s a hero.

Obama showed me that successful black women do exist. And it’s a good thing. I shouldn’t shy away from my potential because I am black, and I shouldn’t shy away because I’m a woman. Tuesday night, she elaborated on this and it felt like she was speaking personally to me. “Successful people of color grow up with a lot of doubts because there are people out there who decide they don’t like you because you’re brown,” she said. It was a startling, emotional reminder that I am not alone. Obama went on to explain how black kids are working hard and she applauded us for it, then reminded the crowd that we must continue to work hard and strive high since others hold lower expectations for us. But in the end, we will succeed.

I’m an emotional person to begin with, but knowing that someone so poised and prudent has struggled just as I have made a strong impression on me. It was a reminder that I can truly achieve what I set my mind to, no matter my makeup.

When we got home that night, I cried again. I was so amazed that my childhood—and current—hero told me I was going to be just fine.

Written by junior Kacee Haslett