Encounter with the First Lady

Post by Maria Cardenas

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said. “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” Such words a week ago would not have had such an impact on me as they do now. As I was fortunate to have a once an a lifetime experience. On April 27th, 2012 I attended the Golden Gate Community Center and heard the first lady Michelle Obama give a speech about public education, job creation and what the president has accomplished so far.

Although her speech was inspirational to many, when I agreed to go to this event I went with a goal in mind. That goal was to question the first lady on a critical issue that affects many within our community. Such as the issue of “immigration.” I was hopeful that the first lady would talk about such issue yet she did not. I was not about to let it be that way. Once she was done giving her speech I knew I had to approach her and question her on the issue not just for me but for the many families who are “separated” because of this broken immigration system. Needless to say I was TERRIFIED! To some point I believed that I would “back down” and not do it. However I knew that I would be advocating for many families. As a future social worker a strong fundamental we abide by is “advocacy.”  Thus I knew this would be my opportunity to be an advocate for the many families who are living in this situation. Before I attend I made a few questions and one similarity was the emphasis that my question had in regards to the “separation of families.” Nonetheless I knew that I had to be the advocate for others but especially for my nephews. That due to this broken immigration system they are going up without their parents. Thus I have seen the emotional affects that such a separation has caused to both parties.

As I waited for Michelle Obama to finish her speech I still questioned if I would have the courage to confront the first lady and at that question her. At moments I felt that I would not go through with it. Nevertheless as I watched the first lady come off the stage and shake peoples hands I knew it was now of never. I attempted to make my way to her. Eventually I was able to make my way to her. As I saw her approaching I was still hesitant. I thought that I would be attacked by all the Obama supporters if I question her. Yet as Michelle Obama approached me I went for it. I put my hand out and shook it. I had noted that the first lady was shaking peoples hands and hardly paying attention. However what I did was as she shook my hand I held on to hers and yelled “wait.. wait I have a question!” Saying that opened up my path to her and those around me seemed to want to hear my question. Then I asked, “What should I tell my niece about deportation and how her father my brother isn’t with us what should I tell her?” The first lady was shocked with the question and did not have a response ready you could tell by her non-verbal reaction. I held the first ladies hand so tight because I did not want her to leave without saying anything. So after a pause and some stuttering she then stated, “th-that is why we have to VOTE President Obama into office for 4 more years so that there can be a Immigration Reform.” Although I was not thrilled with her response I know I made her THINK and in the end that was my goal!

This experience will serve as a learning experience to me and is due in huge “thanks” to the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project. As it is due to my participation with such organization that I was able to experience this and thus advocate in favor for the individuals we serve.



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