NASVHILLE, Tenn. -- On the same day that the nation's high court upheld President Obama's health-care legislation, First Lady Michelle Obama told black churchgoers in Nashville that the black community's legal fights for justice continue long after the Civil Rights era.
"The connection between our laws and our lives isn't always as clear as it was 50 years or 150 years ago," Mrs. Obama told thousands of members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at their quadrennial conference in Nashville. "And, as a result, it's sometimes easy to assume that the battles in our courts and legislatures have all been won."
The first lady urged the audience to begin by addressing issues like their children's education and health with responsible parenting, but she added that civic engagement remains an important part of the equation.
"But while we certainly need to start at home," she said, "we all know that we canot stop there because the fact is that our laws still matter."
Mrs. Obama did not directly mention the issue of health care in her speech -- or today's 5-4 ruling in favor of the health law's requirement that most Americans buy insurance.
But, later in the day, at another event in Memphis, Obama directly addressed the Supreme Court case:
“When it comes to healthcare, please, please tell people about the historic reform this president passed,” she said. “Tell them that today’s Supreme Court decision was truly a victory for families all across this country. ... Because of this reform, help them understand that insurance companies will have to cover preventative care for things like contraception, cancer screening, prenatal care... Insurance companies will no longer be able to cap your coverage because you’re 'too sick' … (or) deny you coverage just because you have a preexisting condition."
During her speech here, she referenced civil rights battles that were won in dramatic court cases like Brown v. Board of Education. Today's fights, she said, are far less clear than that landmark 1954 court victory to end segregation.
"What about all those kids growing up in neighborhoods where they don't feel safe, kids who never have opportunities worthy of their promise," she asked. "What court case do we bring on their behalf? What laws do we pass for them?"
About 10,000 participants were on hand for the First Lady's address, which included some teasing of those who might shy away from talking politics at the churches that anchor their communities.
"To anyone who says that church is no place to talk about these issues," she said, "you tell them there is no place better, because ultimately these are not just political issues, they are moral issues."
Then-Sen. Barack Obama addressed the same conference during his presidential campaign in 2008.
The first lady's remarks Thursday included frequent references to black leaders who she said paved the way for her husband's historic ascent to the presidency. She referenced the story of a son of an African American White House staffer who asked the president if his hair felt the same as his own.
"If you ever wonder whether change is possible in this country, I want you to think about that little black boy in the Oval Office touching the head of the first black president," the first lady said. "And I want you to think about how children who see that photo today think nothing of it because that is all they have ever known. Because they have grown up taking for granted that an African American can be president of the United States."