Santa Fe Indian School Principal Dr. Felisa Gulibert used the word “elation” to describe her school’s response to hearing that First Lady Michelle Obama had accepted their invitation to speak at the May 23 commencement ceremony. And the day was as magical as they all anticipated.
When she walked in, she was greeted by cheers, a sea of cameras, and a standing ovation. She listened to the drumming and chanting and watching the Tewa Dancers of Ohkay Owingeh.
The First Lady was presented with a gift of thanks for “protecting us as your own children,” and when she spoke, it was from the heart.
“So, graduates, I wanted to be here with you at your commencement because your values are my values—the values that carried me all the way from the South Side of Chicago to where I am today, standing before you as the First Lady of the United States,” the First Lady said as part of her prepared remarks.
“I also wanted to be here because your stories—your achievements, your contributions and the story of this school—inspire me,” she continued. “As we all know, this school was founded as part of a deliberate, systematic effort to extinguish your culture; to literally annihilate who you were and what you believed in. But look at you today. The Native languages that were once strictly forbidden here now echo through hallways and in your dorm room conversations at night. The traditions that this school was designed to destroy are now expressed in every square foot of this building—in the art on your walls, in the statue in your MSC building, in the Po Pay Day song and dance performances in your plaza, in the prayers and blessings that you offer in your heart room.”