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Michelle Obama Visit Spelman College Atlanta Becoming Tour

Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills

Former First Lady Michelle Obama Discusses Leadership, Professional Development, and “Becoming” During Surprise Visit to Spelman College

 
Michelle Obama Discusses Book at SpelmanOn Saturday, May 11, at the tail end of her "Becoming" book tour, Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama attended class with nearly two-dozen, wide-eyed Spelman and Morehouse students enrolled in Dr. Marilyn Davis' Political Science 317 course: Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills.

Most Atlanta University Center students had already turned in their last exam, checked their grades, packed their books, donned their "Goodbye 2018-2019 Academic Year" t-shirts, and loaded their rented U-haul trucks to overflow, as these scholars sat in Giles Hall on Spelman's campus captivated by Mrs. Obama. In mutual appreciation, she leaned in and listened to the future change agents with eager anticipation that the future is in good hands.

The students had spent an entire semester pouring over the pages of her book in hopes of Becoming, Knowing, Learning and Growing. Little did they know the author of their "textbook" would pay them a surprise visit before they left campus for the summer and just hours prior to Mrs. Obama’s appearance before a sold-out crowd at Atlanta's State Farm Arena.

Start of QuoteDo not hide your story,” Mrs. Obama told the class of more than a dozen students. “Do not hide End of Quotethe truth of who you are. We have to get our stories out there – in all shapes, sizes and forms.

During the round table conversation, Mrs. Obama shared that the success of the Obamas during their time in the White House, and since leaving, is rooted in their ability to stay prepared to handle adversity.

“We were like you,” said Mrs. Obama. “We were ready to be excellent on a dime. It was easy going high because we practiced it. You can take doubt and criticism and let it eat you up, or you can turn it on its head. It’s going to take you all some time to explore the different opportunities out there, but take your time."

Mrs. Obama's own experience of attending an Ivy League school, leaving a high-paying position at a corporate law firm to work, and later of becoming executive director of a Chicago non-profit that encouraged young people to work in public service, resonated with the AUC students who were happy to share their reflections.

Michelle Obama Speaks to Spelman Students 

AUC Scholars Reflect on #BecomingLeaders

Rayven Peterson, C’2021, Psychology Major

“I understand that it is okay to not know what you want to do. The path that you have created is not always set in stone. It can change. It is okay if you fail. Because if you engage in failure, like Mrs. Obama said you will grow and you will become a better you. Just do you. Make sure you are okay with what you are doing. And everything that you do matters.”

Leah Herring, C’2019, Political Science Major

"I feel like I was given a realistic push. She gave us her honest perspective and her story. Learning more about her helped me realize that I'm not alone and everything is going to be okay.”

Anta Njie, C'2019, Political Science Major

“Hearing from Mrs. Obama that we don't have to have it all figured out, and that failure and loss will come in all different shapes and sizes, was confirmation. She helped me realize that failure only prepares you for success. What we learn from our losses will catapult us to success. Failing is not something I am fully comfortable with but I now know how to handle it when it comes.” 

Jordan Barefield, C’2021, Political Science Major

“I just think that it is really important to realize how universal some experiences are. Even though we do not come from the same walks of life, and we do not have the same identical incidents in life, we can still relate to one another. And we can still understand different walks of life.”

 

First Lady Michelle Obama at Spelman's 2011 Commencement

In 2011, when first lady Michelle Obama spoke to Spelman's 550 graduating seniors at the College's commencement exercises, she told them...

Start of QuoteFind those folks who have so much potential but so little opportunity and do for them what Spelman has done for you,” Obama said before a crowd of 10,000 comprised of the graduates’ family members, friends and supporters. “No matter where you go in the world, you will find folks who have beenEnd of Quote discounted or dismissed, but who have every bit as much promise as you have. They just haven’t had the chance to fulfill it. It is your obligation to bring Spelman to those folks. Be as ambitious for them as Spelman has been for you.

 

Commencement Speech

About the Course

Spelman College's honors and interdisciplinary elective, "Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills," taught by Marilyn A. Davis, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Spelman, is a rigorous, seminar, essay writing, public speaking, and service-learning course. The course aims to heighten undergraduate and life-long learning through service-learning projects, essay writing, communication through speaking (elevator speech), collaborative discussion/presentation, and application of the four leadership competencies 

Discussion topics include: 

Self-assessment of formative leadership knowledge, skills, and competencies (critical thinking, strategic planning, team building, and problem solving) to measure growth; Becoming Me, Us and More," the tenets of leadership and professional development, elevator speeches (interviews, cover letters, and resumes), sexual harassment, and service learning.