Michelle Obama Just Redefined Race and Politics in America

Just wow.
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Ben Cohen
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Just wow.

On the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama knocked it out of the park in what must be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in recent US political history. Yes, it was that good, and it was that profound. 

The First Lady spoke eloquently and passionately about the need rise above the incessant vitriol we see in American politics today, discussed the trials and tribulations of her husband's presidency, and spoke emotionally about raising two little girls in the White House. 

Obama went on to forcefully endorse Hillary Clinton, defining her as a resilient, pragmatic and highly competent leader who would help create a fairer, more prosperous country for everyone. 

But it was one sentence that made the speech a truly great one -- a sentence anyone familiar with US history understands was not only groundbreaking, but paradigm shifting. 

“I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves," said Obama. "And I watch my daughters, two beautiful and intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."

The power of this statement cannot be exaggerated -- it cut to the heart of America's toxic racial and misogynistic history, yet provided an incredibly positive vision of the future. It was a statement that white America must come to terms with, a statement that is categorically true and dismantles the narrative held by white America that their country was built by them and for them. 

Last night, Michelle Obama painted a picture of America from the perspective of an African American woman -- a descendent of slaves stolen from their ancestral land and forced to build much of what we have come to know as America today. It is a picture white America has refused to see and has refused to come to terms with, but one the First Lady sprung on them from the heights of political power. Because what can Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity or any of the other ambassadors of white Christian conservatism say about Michelle Obama? She not only defies the stereotype of a black woman they hold dear, she shatters it into a million pieces. Obama was not speaking aggressively or divisively, but from a place of deep understanding and compassion. She was not speaking from a place of hatred and ignorance, but from one of love and education. 

The White House was built by slaves, and slaves did build America. And America has never, ever repaid them. The Obamas did not get to the White House because of America, they got there in spite of America, and Michelle Obama reminded Americans of this last night with her scintillating speech. And all without actually saying it. 

Obama's speech also put Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency into perspective, shifting the narrative away from her contentious race with Bernie Sanders and into one of historic meaning. After the first black president of America, the country now has the chance to elect the first woman -- a moment of equal significance. 

"As my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth, a leader who is worthy of my girls’ promise and all our kids’ promise, a leader who will be guided every day by the love and hope and impossibly big dreams that we all have for our children," said Obama.

"So in this election, we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical. No, hear me. Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago."

You heard it here first: we have not seen the last of Michelle Obama.