Former First Lady Michelle Obama has always maintained that she’s a Chi-Town girl through and through. And now, with her new book Becoming on store shelves, the one-time attorney, Princeton and Harvard Law grad, is sharing in an open letter with the Chicago Defender, how a former principal’s words further instilled pride for her hometown.
Obama shares in her editorial, of a time when an op-ed was printed in a local newspaper calling her school a “run-down slum” governed by a “ghetto mentality.” Her principal Dr. Lavizzo refuted the claim, saying the assertion was “an outrageous lie, which seems designed to incite only feelings of failure and flight.”
These are the same feelings, Obama eloquently asserts, that many Chicagoans may be feeling right now.
“I know that gangs rule too many streets, that guns and drugs have infested too many neighborhoods, and that too many people who’ve never lived here or even visited find it too easy to just write off parts of this city.” Obama continues, “But what I also know is that at its heart, the South Side is still the same place that shaped me. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
In spite of its less than favorable reputation, the woman who fights arduously for girls’ education and persistently advocates for the youth, insists that the Chicago neighborhood that made her who she is, and the children who are products of it, can, like her, go on to do amazing things.
“As I write in my memoir, Becoming, failure is a feeling long before it is an actual result,” She further contends, “It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
Obama understands that without the limits that fear imposes, the future for children on the South Side is bright. Confirmation for the mother of two comes from having visited with students at local schools and seeing how Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton turned pain into action after losing her daughter to gun violence.
It appears that the pride Dr. Lavizzo and his staff of teachers once had for Bryn Mawr Elementary School in South Shore has transcended into the dignity Obama carries with her, regardless of how bright her star continues to rise.