Last night, First Lady Michelle Obama came to the Democratic National Convention on a mission to remind the United States that she and her husband can indeed relate to the struggle associated with living the American Dream. Her speech was nothing short of extraordinary. She managed to point out that neither she nor President Obama would have been able to afford to matriculate at their respective Ivy League alma maters without financial aid while at the same time bringing attention to the struggle that many college graduates from less-than-rich backgrounds face upon graduation–debt.
It is no secret that President and First Lady Obama were only able to pay off their student loans after the buzz from Barack Obama’s speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention led to an increase in sales for his first book Dreams from My Father (released just a few days after the convention ended) and subsequent book deals. First Lady Obama joked about the rusty car that Barack Obama owned when they were dating. She also joked about the fact that at one point early in their marriage, their combined student loans were actually higher than their mortgage. I really appreciate her candor.
Personally, these aspects of the Obama narrative struck a chord with me. Like the Obamas, I had the opportunity to earn a few degrees from Ivy League universities. While those degrees have given me the opportunity to come closer to reaching my goals of making a difference in this world, they have also helped me to accumulate a large amount of debt. However, that’s where the similarities end. The Obamas managed to find each other as two Harvard-educated lawyers who were trying to make their mark on society while managing their student loans. In contrast, I have chosen to be single for a bit longer just because I feel the need to have at least a loose plan for paying off my student loans before entering a serious relationship.
Although First Lady Obama’s speech was meant to serve a political purpose, it did manage to make me rethink my views on love and money. Maybe I have been too busy wanting to have it all together financially to realize that the right woman would be there to support my ambitions regardless of how tight my budget is at the moment. After all, lawyer Michelle recognized the potential and ambition in Barack while he was a summer intern at the Sidley Austin law firm in spite of his lack of the material possessions that we often associate with success. Maybe I really am cheating myself out of the opportunity to be “so young, so in love, and so in debt” and Michelle and Barack were years ago.
Check out First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech here.