Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Conversation with Michelle Obama

Yesterday in Miami, I had the incredible opportunity to talk with the First Lady. The event is still somewhat of a surreal experience in my mind; a blur of Secret Service agents in pink ties and over in the blink of an eye. But I will forever remember the moment when she walked into the room and how she immediately walked over to all of us where we were sitting on the couches. We all jumped up, of course, and she took a moment to greet each one of us with a warm hug and welcoming words, thanking each of us for taking the time to talk with her. She was warm and friendly, trying to put all of us at ease as she talked about her morning and her daughters.

As a Latina mom, I was struck by two things. First, this was, I believe, the first time anyone in the White House had reached out to Latina moms to talk about the issues and worries that so many of us deal with in our day-to-day lives. And second, Mrs. Obama was the perfect person for us to talk to because she is also a mother who obviously puts her kids first. And she seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say.

To our delight, we were also joined by Katherine Archuleta, Obama's National Political Director. She was also warm and gracious, and shared with us the story of her daughter, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 19 years old. And I think Ms. Archuleta really helped us to relax with the knowledge that we would be talking with another Latina mom who has the same fears and hopes as we do.

The picture above is a screenshot of the livestreamed conversation. You can watch the whole video here. We were repeatedly told that Mrs. Obama wanted a conversation, not a question and answer session. She wanted to know what our biggest concerns were. We were not coached, though we moms did meet for breakfast earlier that morning to get to know one another and talk about the issues we were going to address.

I have to say I loved talking with Melanie, Yvette, Shirley, and Maria. They are hard-working mothers who love their children madly and care about our country. It just so happened that all of us have young children more or less within the same age range. And more importantly, we all felt a tremendous amount of responsibility to bring up issues that other moms like us across the country were worried about.

I really feel like we just skimmed the surface, barely touching on some of the biggest concerns we have for our future and our children's future. But I'm so grateful to be one of the people who were invited to START the conversation. Thirty minutes is nowhere close to enough time to share the concerns, struggles, and issues that we as a community are thinking about.

Issues like how we need to recruit more bilingual teachers and counselors to help our kids succeed. And how we need to see more dual-language programs available across the country. How all parents should have the right to choose where their kid is going to go to school and how all schools should be graduating 100% of their students. And how better systems need to be in place to help us detect actual learning disabilities in our children.

Issues like how there needs to be more resources for Latino families with aging parents. Our culture is not one to just stick our aged in a nursing home, but rather we take on the responsibility of caring for our padres and abuelitos even if it means bringing them into our own homes, juggling this additional work-load with our own job/careers, child-rearing, and marriages.

And we also must talk about how we need to support our DREAMers, who through no fault of their own, lack a simple paper granting them the official title of "CITIZEN" of this wonderful country that they love and to which they are already loyal.

I am forever grateful to Mamiverse for inviting me to participate in this historic event. As a result I am moved and motivated to keep fighting for my own children and their future. To remember that one person's actions can affect many. It's up to us as individuals as to whether we do good or otherwise.

I don't think it is right for me to tell anyone who they should vote for. But I want to encourage each and every one of you to use your voice. It is our right and our responsibility as citizens of the United States of America to vote for the people that we think should be running our country.

And it is our responsibility to think about what issues are most important to us and to know the candidates and where they stand on those issues. We have to weed through the lies and think about who really is thinking about what is best for each of us. We cannot decide NOT to vote and then turn around and complain about who is in power and what they're doing or not doing.

Educate yourself. Know the issues. Then raise your voice and make it count.

Un abrazo...