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The First Lady Reminds HBCU Students of Their Legacy In America's History

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers the 2012 Commencement Speech at historically black university, North Carolina A&T, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
First Lady NC A&T Commencement Speech

A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. presents First Lady Michelle Obama with a hood signifying her honorary degree following her commencement address during the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University commencement ceremony in Greensboro, N.C., May 12, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


On Saturday, May 12, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address for the graduating class of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University (NC A&T), a historically black university located in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

The First Lady began by noting the many A&T alumni who broke through glass ceilings in fields of law, science, and business:

You have produced some of our nation's finest leaders in business, government, and our military. The first African American Justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court was an Aggie. So was the second African American astronaut. And so were those four young men who sat down at a lunch counter 52 years ago and will stand forever in bronze in front of the Dudley building.

Mrs. Obama also retold the story about the Greensboro Four --students who did more than participate in a sit-in at Woolworths to desegregate lunch counters during the 1960s. They were also an inspiration for justice and civil disobedience during the collective effort toward equal rights for all Americans:

It all started because a small group of young people had their eyes open to the injustices around them. It all started because they decided, as one fo the four told the newspaper on the first day of the protests, that it was "time for someone to wake up and change the situation." And that, more than anything else, is the story of our nation's progress right from the very beginning.

The First Lady closed with a call to action for the 1200 graduates to not just focus on climbing the career ladder job titles, but to continue fighting to change the many injustices that still exist today:

Each generation lookas at the world around them and decides that it's time to wake up and change the situation. And we've always looked to our young people to lead the way. We always have.

So graduates, now it's your turn. It's time for you to take that baton. Take it. It's time for you to carry the banner forward. It's time for you to wake the rest of us up and show us everything you've got.

Click here to read Mrs. Obama's full commencement speech to the 2012 Graduating class of North Carolina A&T.

Heather Foster is an Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement