“Masterful.” – Fox News’ Chris Wallace
“Very well delivered” – Fox News contributor Karl Rove
“Oh my god.” – MSNBC, Rachel Maddow
“Brilliantly written and brilliantly delivered.” – MSNBC’s Steve Schmidt
“Michelle Obama owned this convention in a way that no speaker owned the floor of the convention in Tampa.” – Chuck Todd
“Never heard such a well delivered speech by a first lady ever.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper
“A grand slam.” – CNN’s Wolf Blitzer
These are just some of the rave reviews FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech received. It was the overall sentiment, minus a few right-wing haters and those who just refuse to give credit where it’s due, that Obama’s speech was nothing short of extraordinary. It is a sense of “wow”, as though she brought something unexpected.
Indeed Obama’s speech was without pause a canvass of articulation, inspiration, genuineness, poise and dignity unparalleled to anything we heard coming out of the Republican National Convention. It was moving and heartfelt even to those among us who admire her but may hold serious grievances against her husband’s policies and performance as Commander-in-Chief his first term in office.
I suppose most were so astounded by Obama’s performance because (1) she’s not a politician or public speaker and/or (2) for the most part she has been somewhat reserved since becoming FLOTUS, something I suspect a result of the relentless backlash and harsh criticism she received during President Obama’s campaign for the Presidency as “the angry Black woman” who hates America and White people.
I, on the other hand was not the least surprised by how well Mrs. Obama delivered, her ability to imbue the crowd. Her delivery was every bit as good as I would expect of someone of her caliber. Why? Because as an African-American woman who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in one of the most racially segregated cities in America you don’t become FLOTUS without having your shit seriously together. A Black woman, but not just a Black woman, a brown-skinned Black woman from the South side of Chicago doesn’t rise to Vice President for Community and External Affairs for University of Chicago Hospitals without being the creme de la creme. As much as the naysayers would like to have you believe her success can be attributed to Affirmative Action, it’s quite to the contrary. Affirmative Action for most Blacks has always meant we’ll allow you to get one foot in the door. Know for sure that once the door has been opened and you’ve been given entry it’s all uphill from there. No passes, no mistakes, all eyes on your every move. Good isn’t good enough. You’ve got to be better than the best.
It reminds me of something asserted by the keynote speaker of a journalism awards banquet I attended while in college. Speaking on the requirement for us as future African-American journalists or media professionals to be not just as good as our White counterparts, but twice even three times as good he said, “If White folks get to the office at 8:00 you have to be there at 6:00. If they get there at 6:00 you better be there at 4:00. And if they get there at 4:00 you gotta stay up all night long.”
It is a harsh, undeniable reality Black professionals face on a daily basis in America. The true elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Because it reveals a certain truth, an ugly one which we all, even Black folk, would just rather pretend didn’t exist.
So when I see a brown-skinned woman from humble beginnings stand front and center on the largest and most significant political stage in the sphere of politics and deliver with articulation, intelligence and inspiration a speech considered to be the “best” of all times……no it doesn’t surprise me. I know she’s earned it ’cause life for us ain’t never been no crystal stair.