The Obama campaign, however, quickly responded to a request for the thesis by Politico. The thesis offers several fascinating insights into the mind of Michelle Obama, who has been a passionate advocate of her husband's presidential aspirations and who has made several controvesial statements, including this week's remark, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." That comment has fueled debate on countless blogs, radio talk shows and cable news for days on end, causing her to explain the statement in greater detail.
The 1985 thesis provides a trove of Michelle Obama's thoughts as a young woman, with many of the paper's statements describing the student's world as seen through a race-based prism.Continue Reading
"In defining the concept of identification or the ability to identify with the black community," the Princeton student wrote, "I based my definition on the premise that there is a distinctive black culture very different from white culture." Other thesis statements specifically pointed to what was seen by the future Mrs. Obama as racially insensitive practices in a university system populated with mostly Caucasian educators and students: "Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of their enrollments."
To illustrate the latter statement, she pointed out that Princeton (at the time) had only five black tenured professors on its faculty, and its "Afro-American studies" program "is one of the smallest and most understaffed departments in the university." In addition, she said only one major university-recognized group on campus was "designed specifically for the intellectual and social interests of blacks and other third world students." (Her findings also stressed that Princeton was "infamous for being racially the most conservative of the Ivy League universities.")
Perhaps one of the most germane subjects approached in the thesis is a section in which she conveyed views about political relations between black and white communities. She quotes the work of sociologists James Conyers and Walter Wallace, who discussed "integration of black official(s) into various aspects of politics" and notes "problems which face these black officials who must persuade the white community that they are above issues of race and that they are representing all people and not just black people," as opposed to creating "two separate social structures."
To research her thesis, the future Mrs. Obama sent an 18-question survey to a sampling of 400 black Princeton graduates, requesting the respondents define the amount of time and "comfort" level spent interacting with blacks and whites before they attended the school, as well as during and after their University years. Other questions dealt with their individual religious beliefs, living arrangements, careers, role models, economic status, and thoughts about lower class blacks. In addition, those surveyed were asked to choose whether they were more in line with a "separationist and/or pluralist" viewpoint or an "integrationist and/or assimilationist" ideology.
Just under 90 alums responded to the questionnaires (for a response rate of approximately 22 percent) and the conclusions were not what she expected. "I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility."
Neither of my parents attended college, and my family didn’t have much money, so I knew there was no way they could afford a college tuition. But I also knew that college was the single most important investment I could make in my future. So I worked as hard as I could to get good grades, sent in my applications, and got accepted to Princeton University. I applied for as much financial aid as I could. That assistance allowed me to get my degree — and that degree changed my life. It allowed me to go on to law school (which I paid for with more financial aid) and become a lawyer. And with that education, I was able to do so many jobs that I loved — working in the Mayor’s Office in Chicago, running a non-profit organization called Public Allies to help young people in underserved communities, being an Associate Dean at the University of Chicago. This all happened because I got into college and filled out my financial aid forms. So can you. Here’s how.
First, you need to commit. Just decide, right now, that you’re going to continue your education past high school, and don’t let anything stand in your way. Maybe you have friends who don’t share your ambitions and will try to distract you from your goals. Maybe you face challenges in your family. Whatever it is, don’t let it discourage you from reaching for your dreams.
Next, get on track in the college application process by connecting with my Better Make Room campaign and their tool called Up Next that can give you the extra push you need. Just text “College” to 44044 to sign up, and the folks at Better Make Room will send college tips and reminders right to your phone. They’ll let you know when it’s time to register for the SATs and ACTs and remind you about important application deadlines. And when you do get to college they’ll help you stay focused and motivated.