On Sunday, former first lady Michelle Obama gave a commencement address amid the protests of George Floyd’s death and police brutality that continue around the U.S. As reported by The Hill, Obama urged the 2020 graduates to couple protest with mobilization and voting.
“Graduates, anger is a powerful force,” Obama said. “It can be a useful force, but left on its own, it will only corrode and destroy and sow chaos on the inside and out. But when anger is focused, when it’s channeled into something more, oh, that is the stuff that changes history.”
Obama pointed to the anger of Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Cesar Chavez, and the Stonewall demonstrators, but emphasized that they were also “driven by compassion, by principle, by hope.”
“And so they took advantage of whatever resources they had in their own time,” she said.
At the end of her address, Obama called on the graduates to text everyone they know a voter registration link and gave them advice on how to continue the work of previous generations.
“By staying open and hopeful, even in the tough times. By channeling that discomfort you feel into activism, and a democracy that was designed to respond to those who vote.”
The former first lady’s national nonpartisan organization, When We All Vote (WWAV), is aimed at increasing voter turnout in 2020. As reported by Mic, Obama’s organization claims it has organized 2,500 local voter registration events across the U.S., and texted almost 4 million voter registrations resources for the 2018 midterms.
As for 2020, the organization recently announced an initiative, Civic Cities, to boost voter turnout and participation in America by harnessing the help of local elected officials.
According to Mic, mayors participating in the initiative will be provided with the platform via press releases, social media channels, and media. The mayors will also have access to voter registration data to help track the program’s progress.
Barack Obama notably asked black voters to vote for Clinton and suggested he would take it as a personal slight if they did not do so. As critics noted, Obama’s presidency had a negative effect on middle-class wealth, in particular, African Americans in this demographic.