‘I know the struggles many of you face.’ Michelle Obama Delivers Emotional Speech to Chicago High School Graduates.

Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama recently visited Chicago’s South Side, the neighborhood she grew up in, to deliver an impassioned speech to the graduates of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School. Obama urged the students of the school, which made headlines in 2013 when Hadiya Pendleton, a student at the school, was fatally shot, to challenge the narratives about their city.

“Hadiya’s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and my husband, and to people across this country and around the world. I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she’s left in your hearts.”

Obama attended the funeral of Pendleton, who was killed one week after visiting the White House and would have graduated yesterday. An empty chair with draped with purple fabric and flowers was reserved in her honor, and the teen’s family was presented with her class ring.

Michelle Obama, who was born and raised in South Side, Chicago expressed empathy for the students who were tasked with changing troubling the perceptions of their community in addition to dealing with personal hardships.

“I was born and raised here on the South Side – in South Shore – and I am who I am today because of this community,” Obama said. “I know the struggles many of you face: how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs; how you fight to concentrate on your homework when there’s too much noise at home; how you keep it together when your family’s having a hard time making ends meet.”

“I’m here tonight because I want people across this country to know that story, the real story of the South Side — the story of that quiet majority of good folks, families like mine and young people like you who face real challenges, but make good choices every single day,” she said.

She ended the speech on an uplifting note,

“If Hadiya’s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in protest to gun violence,” she said, “then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life. I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.”