Seize power and don’t hide scars, for­mer first lady urges au­di­ence

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Danika Wor­thing­ton

In her first public ap­pear­ance in Colorado since leav­ing the White House, for­mer first lady Michelle Obama had a mes­sage for women: Seize your power and don’t let go.

Seated for an arm­chair con­ver­sa­tion in front of 8,500 peo­ple, Obama was re­laxed, per­son­able and play­ful but still se­ri­ous as she touched on a range of top­ics — in­clud­ing girls ed­u­ca­tion, health and nu­tri­tion, and fe­male em­pow­er­ment, all things she worked on as first lady — at the Women’s Foun­da­tion of Colorado’s 30th an­niver­sary Tues­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter.

The pre­dom­i­nately fe­male crowd was a mix of young and old. The event’s pop­u­lar­ity forced or­ga­niz­ers to open up more seats. Obama was greeted by an ex­tended stand­ing ova­tion and a few calls of “We love you.”

WFCO pres­i­dent and CEO Lau­ren Cas­teel com­mented that Obama broke a glass ceil­ing by be­com­ing the first black first lady. She then asked which of the falling glass shards cut the deep­est.

“The shards that cut me the deep­est were the ones that in­tended to cut,” she said, ref­er­enc­ing be­ing called an ape and peo­ple talk­ing about her pos­te­rior. “Know­ing that af­ter eight years of work­ing re­ally hard for this coun­try, there are still peo­ple who won’t see me for what I am be­cause of my skin color.”

She said she can’t pre­tend that it doesn’t hurt be­cause that lets those who do the hurt­ing off the hook.

“Women, we en­dure those cuts in so many ways that we don’t even no­tice we’re cut,” she said. “We are liv­ing with small tiny cuts, and we are bleed­ing ev­ery sin­gle day. And we’re still get­ting up.”

But Obama said women should own their scars. Re­fer­ring to fail­ure, she said those wounds hurt deeply but they heal with time. If women own their scars, they can en­cour­age younger girls who are get­ting their first cuts.

Al­though Obama largely stayed away from pol­i­tics, she took a few thinly veiled shots at the cur­rent pres­i­dent — re­ceiv­ing cheers from the crowd. She re­it­er­ated that she would not be seek­ing public of­fice, much to the crowd’s dis­may. But she said she and Barack Obama in­tend to stay in public ser­vice.

“Not ev­ery­body seizes the power. There are peo­ple in the room that said, ‘Here you go,’ ” Obama said. “It’s not enough to have move­ment af­ter the vote be­cause the vote is what it is.”

The Oba­mas have been on speak­ing tours af­ter a post­pres­i­dency va­ca­tion.

Sim­i­lar to Tues­day’s con­ver­sa­tion, Michelle Obama has largely steered clear of pol­i­tics, fo­cus­ing in­stead on top­ics that she sup­ported as first lady, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health and nu­tri­tion.

The WFCO event served as a fundraiser for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Among the speak­ers were Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, for­mer first lady of Colorado and WFCO co­founder Dot­tie Lamm, and Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock.

WFCO was founded in 1987 to ad­dress the “fem­i­niza­tion of poverty” as Colorado and ar­eas across the world saw women more likely to live in poverty.

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