After eight years of championing healthy school lunches, busting slick dance moves, and embodying the dignity required of her role without ever being too serious about it, Michelle Obama spoke publicly as First Lady for the last time ever in an emotional speech on Friday.
Having already established herself as a phenomenal public speaker, Obama's farewell speech was similarly powerful, reminding Americans of the values of diversity and freedom.
"For all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth," she said.
Towards the tail-end of the election, Obama delivered a thunderous speech at the Democratic National Convention, one that called Americans to become politically active. In her final speech, she similarly urged Americans to participate in the national conversation — and to press ahead in the face of a challenge.
"You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives," she said. "And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives. And that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you're willing to work for it and fight for it."
The role of First Lady evolves with every person who occupies it, and Obama wielded her platform as an instrument of positive change, particularly for young people. In a fitting end to her time as First Lady, she ended her speech on a note of optimistic determination.
"I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. Don't be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life," she said. "Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I've made you proud."
Cover image via The White House / Amanda Lucidon.