First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to members of the class of 2016 in her final commencement speech as first lady, June 3, 2016, during commencement at CCNY in New York.
Photo by Bebeto Matthews/AP

5 pieces of life advice from Michelle Obama’s commencement speeches


Michelle Obama paid tribute to America’s diversity and immigrants Friday in her final commencement address as first lady at the City College of New York. 

Citing her travels across the globe, Obama warned about leaders who demonize entire groups of people, ultimately creating a less free society.

Here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart,” she said, “because we know that our greatness comes when we appreciate each other’s strengths”

Without mentioning presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by name, Obama offered a blistering rebuke of the business mogul’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. He has called some Mexicans criminals and rapists and also called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. 

“Here in America, we don’t give into our fears; we don’t build up walls to keep people out,” Obama said, referencing Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Obama’s address, perhaps not so coincidentally delivered on the island of Manhattan, where past generations forged their American dreams after passing through the halls of Ellis Island, could offer a preview of her role on the 2016 campaign trail. Politics aside, her speech was also full of tried and true life lessons, like this one: “Nothing is going to stop you from fulfilling your dreams.”

RELATED: Michelle Obama to girls: No boy is ‘enough to stop you from getting your education

Here are five other life lessons the first lady has given during her last two years of delivering commencement addresses: 

1. Santa Fe Indian School (May 26, 2016)

“I am filled with hope. It’s the same hope I feel when I think about my own story  how my great-great grandfather was another man’s property, my great-grandfather was another man’s servant, my grandparents, and parents felt the sting of segregation and discrimination. But because they refused to be defined by anyone else’s idea of who they were and what they could be, because they held fast to their impossible dreams for themselves and their children, today, my two daughters wake up each morning in the White House. ”

2. Jackson State University (April 23, 2016)

“If you choose faith and love, if you strive always for dignity and excellence, then there is absolutely nothing you can’t achieve.”

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparatory High School (June 9, 2015)

“Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. And I cannot stress that enough … Whatever else comes next, you will face plenty of obstacles. There will be times when you find yourself struggling. And at first, you might not know where to turn to for help. Or maybe you might be too embarrassed to ask. And trust me, I know how that feels … If you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.”

4. Oberlin College (May 25, 2015)

“In the real world, there are plenty of people who think very differently than you do, and they hold their opinions just as passionately. So if you want to change their minds, if you want to work with them to move this country forward, you can’t just shut them out. You have to persuade them, and you have to compromise with them. That is what so many of our heroes of history have done.”

5. Tuskegee University (May 9, 2015) 

“Here’s the thing  our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together  then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together  together  we can overcome anything that stands in our way.”