By Kassidy Hall | Echo
On Feb. 13, a crowd of more than 12,000 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse listened to "A Moderated Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama," presented by the Women's Fund of Central Indiana, a special interest fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Several individuals sponsored the conversation and the revenue from the sold-out event will be used by the Women's Fund as they continue to sponsor opportunities for women and girls in the Indianapolis community. Jennifer Pope Baker, executive director of the Women's Fund, explained that a whole community is strengthened when just one woman is strengthened.
The conversation - moderated by Alecia DeCoudreaux, founding board member of the Women's Fund - began with Obama reflecting on her upbringing in Chicago. She remembered being surrounded by a community of mothers as she and her extended family regularly attended church, shared meals and spent time together.
After attending Chicago public schools, graduating from Princeton and receiving a law degree from Harvard Law School, Obama joined a Chicago law firm and later served as assistant to former Chicago mayor, Richard Daley, and became the founding executive director of AmeriCorps, a program that is focused on public service careers. Throughout the night, Obama continually encouraged young girls to not only go to college and work hard, but to pick careers that allow them to be their authentic selves.
In addition, Obama discussed her active role as first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. As first lady, Obama launched and led four key initiatives: Joining Forces, Let Girls Learn, Let's Move! and Reach Higher. These initiatives are focused on women, higher education and other topics largely important to the Women's Fund. She also emphasized the necessity of minorities' involvement in politics, despite the pushback she received while in office, and predicts women and other minorities will continue to receive the pushback.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Obama said. "You have to put yourself in the game, and you have to be prepared. We need good public servants at all levels. We need diversity. We need different perspectives."
Obama told the thousands of women and girls in the room that increasing self-confidence takes practice, hard work and perseverance, but the most important value to remember, she said, is to be authentic. She also encouraged the audience to speak up and advocate for themselves and others.
The conversation ended with Obama calling on the audience to participate in public service and to show others kindness, empathy and generosity.
"Assume the best in your neighbors, not the worst," Obama said. "And act on that generosity, in your church and in your schools. . . . Nobody can take that from you."