Michelle Obama recently visited the “Today” show for the International Day of the Girl.
One of the hosts of the show asked Michelle Obama if she still believed that her now famous phrase, “When they go low, we go high” was still applicable. Especially given the present confrontational nature of politics in the USA.
I am going to share her response below:
“Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out. If you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry, do you want them vengeful? If you think of the values that we try to promote to our children — Savannah, you’re a mother right now, at this point you have to think about what are the things you’re telling your girls. Which motto do you want them to live by? And I have to think about that as a mother, as someone who’s a role model to young girls. We want them to grow up with promise and hope, and we can’t model something different if we want them to be better than that.”
“HOPE wins out”
“We want them to grow up with promise and HOPE.”
Michelle Obama’s words reminded me of an essay that was written by a great spiritual guide of the last century, Henri Nouwen.
In that essay, entitled “Waiting,” he references the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah – the parents of John the Baptist who was a cousin of Jesus – and Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Their story is found in the Christian scripture of the New Testament. It is a story that is fraught with tension, because cultural norms are suspended, and fraught with the unknown, because of the presence of divine figures. This tension, like all good stories, leads our heroes to utter profound words of enlightenment.
About those words of enlightenment Nouwen writes, “Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with HOPE. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to God’s promises, not just according to our wishes.”
Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah want their children to “grow up with promise and HOPE.”
HOPE wins out.
A bishop in my denomination, John Krumm, in response to Nouwen’s words once said, “Hope is a far sturdier virtue than just optimism, for that (optimism) can be defeated by disaster, disappointment, and failure. But hope finds, even in unlikely situations, signs that God is at work.”
Hope wins out.
I quote these two Christian men alongside of the former First Lady of the United States not because I believe hope belongs solely to the Christian story or to the Obama political machine.
I quote them as a way to capture the truth that hope belongs to all humans, all of us regardless of our history, or families, or backgrounds, or struggles, or religion.