Last night, Michelle Obama sent chills through the spines of every listener who caught her 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. I chose my words carefully there.
Our hands have been up, palms open like catchers’ mitts for some time. We have been raising our right arms for so long that we’ve had to support tired shoulders with our left hands to manage the dull ache, because we all need to know: What the hell is going on? And: Is everything actually going to be okay?
We’ve had so many hands up in physical defense. In emotional plea. Asking for the shit to stop. For help of all kinds — financial, educational, security, safety. Asking for respect. Asking to be treated humanely, like humans.
Our hands have been up because — especially during this particular election year — we’ve felt like giving up, but the rub is that when you give up, you go home. What about all of those Americans so frustrated with the state of things that they’ve started to question their homes? They say there’s some truth to every joke; for many, the “moving to Canada” bit is no longer a punchline.
But thank god we kept our hands in the air to catch Michelle Obama’s speech. We wrapped our hands around her words, pressed them to our ears and clutched them hard to our hearts.
Michelle Obama spoke to the truths of an enormous audience of democrats but she knew that beyond that room, the whole world was listening. Her message of unity and solidarity; of respect despite skin color or sexual orientation or passport or language or religion; of taking action because we can no longer sit around and “hope”; of aiming high despite low, brutal, painful blows; of thinking about the generations that follow and not just of ourselves — that message is what defines America. That’s what it has always meant: freedom and equality for all. It’s so simple and obvious and we’ve known it since we got here, but sometimes we need a reminder and a wakeup call.
Beyond politics and fancy verbiage and formal reporting, we were touched. Our catcher gloves are on. Now raise your arms, just one more time, for the conversation that we hope to ignite below and speak to how she spoke to you.
Feature photograph by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images.