A picture of former last lady Michelle Obama as a freshly arrived first generation college student, sporting cornrows on Princeton’s campus has become iconic. It’s even inspired a young girl’s costume for Cultural Heroes Day.
In the photo, Obama looks happy and confident, but in a recently penned open letter, the former first lady wrote to that girl in the photo, where she detailed the insecurities she was dealing with at the time.
“You’re at one of the finest universities in the world. You’re smiling, and you should be, you worked hard for this. But even now, after you reached your goal, you’re still not quite sure if you belong and can’t get one question out of your mind: ‘Am I good enough?’” she wrote in the letter, which is part of CBS’ “Note to Self” series.
“There aren’t many kids here who look like you. Some arrived on campus in limousines. One of your classmates is a bona fide movie star, another is rumored to be a real-life princess,” Obama continued. “Meanwhile, you got dropped off by your father in the family sedan.”
Obama also revealed in the lengthy — and at times emotional — letter that her parents had to “take out new credit cards to pay your tuition.”
“But Michelle, what you’ll come to realize one day is that you’re only seeing what you lack and not everything that your story has given you,” she wrote.
The former fist lady also warned her younger self to not to leave those who were not as fortunate as she was to attend an Ivy League institution behind.
Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
“It will be easy to think you’re something special. Just remember that there are millions of people who grew up like you did and don’t get this kind of spotlight. Reflect the light back on them,” she suggested.
“There are so many people out there like you, Miche,” she wrote, calling herself by her nickname. “Black girls and minorities of all kinds, working-class kids from big cities and small towns, people who doubt themselves, who are uncertain about whether they belong but have so much to offer the world. Share your story with them, the struggles and the triumphs and everything else.”
“You’re more than enough, Miche. You always have been and you always will be. And I can’t wait for you to see that,” she concluded.
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