Must Watch: Yemen Student’s Inspiring Speech that Moved Michelle Obama at CCNY

By Vandita

( By now everyone is praising Michelle Obama for giving a passionate speech that electrified the Democratic National Convention, making the Republican Party presidential candidate look small without mentioning his name last week. Almost everyone, barring Republicans of course, believes that she is the First Lady everyone would vote for in 2020.

But not everyone knows that America’s First lady was moved by a hijab-wearing MMUF undergraduate fellow, Orubba Almansouri, the salutatorian of the class of 2016 at the City College of New York, in the first week of June. Orubba — a Yemeni immigrant to the United States — not only delivered her class’ salutatory address, but received congratulations, a hug from Michelle Obama (the commencement speaker at the ceremony), as well as an invitation to speak at the White House.

Watch Orubba share her exceptional journey to academic excellence, her determination with which she pursued her goals and set a powerful example for her community and the world to emulate…

Orubba not only talked about how she fought to be allowed to pursue an education, but also the ripple effects that her achievement has had among the women and girls in her family.

I could not have  imagined  attending  college  simply because  I  wasn’t  allowed  to,  like  my  sisters  weren’t  and  many  girls in  my family before them weren’t. I fought to be allowed to pursue an education, for the right to be here. As I am sure we all did, we earned the right to be here. I personally fought and broke  a  tribal  tradition  that  destined girls  in  the  Bani-Mansour  tribe  of Yemen to the “university of kitchen” rather than to a proper education. I can  laugh  now  as  I  remember  that  while  my  high school  friends  worried about what to wear to prom and who to ask, I went through sleepless nights figuring out a blueprint for the next day debates and arguments with my father.

At times I cried myself to sleep, after hearing from the people most close to me that being in college would ruin me, would strip me out of my identity, my religion, my tradition, that it would basically corrupt me. My first year in college, my aunts feared their daughters would associate with me, because to them and I quote I “have no life” referring to the fact that I’m  attending  parties  still  unmarried  with  no  kids tugging at  my  knees, yet  they  saw  I was  happy.  This  wasn’t  the  norm,  this  was  a  change  to  a system that has been in place for generations.

Before highlighting Orubba’s accomplishments on her own Instagram feed, Michelle delivered a withering attack on the Republican presidential candidate in her 23rd and final commencement speech as first lady, telling almost 4,000 CCNY students that “in America, we don’t give in to our fears.  We don’t build up walls to keep people out,” and that Orubba and her fellow Class of 2016, were the living breathing proof that the American dream endures in our time.

”I have seen how leaders who rule by intimidation –- leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people –- often do so because they have nothing else to offer.  And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished; how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.

”Graduates, that is not who we are.  That is not what this country stands for. No, here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart.  Not here.  Because we know that our greatness comes when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other.  Because in this country, it’s never been each person for themselves.  No, we’re all in this together.  We always have been.”

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