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Michelle Obama in Final Speech: ‘I Hope I’ve Made You Proud’

"You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are."

First Lady Michelle Obama. / REUTERS

In her final speech as the first lady, Michelle Obama spoke of the great value of diversity, American tradition, the country’s future and how grateful she was to have served as first lady.

“Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud,” Obama said while speaking at an event to honor the 2017 School Counselor of the Year.

Addressing America’s young people, Obama said, “this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life.”

She recalled how she and her husband, President Barack Obama, started their lives without a lot of money. “But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President,” Obama said. “That’s what the American Dream is all about.”

The outgoing first lady also discussed diversity and how America was founded on people seeking freedom of religion, pointing to America’s “glorious diversity” that still exists today.

“So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are,” Obama said to applause.

Her thoughts on diversity seemed to be another instance in which the first lady challenged President-elect Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric — without mentioning Trump by name. She also urged America’s youth not to take their freedoms for granted and to contribute “to our national conversation,” which she said they can do by getting the best education possible.

“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 that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.”

Obama started the annual tradition of honoring a select school counselor each year as part of her Reach Higher initiative, a movement started by the first lady to encourage students across the country to further their education past high school. Obama has said she will continue with this effort even after she leaves the White House. In Friday’s speech, she told American students that an education is vital to making a change in the country: “Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.”

And Obama told young people that her final message to them is to not be afraid.

“So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong,” she said, her voice breaking at times as she delivered her final message. “So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.”

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“I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” Obama said.

Obama has previously commented on Trump’s rhetoric without naming him specifically. At a rally for former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in October the first lady said of Trump’s disparaging comments on women, “This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful; it is intolerable. And it doesn’t matter what party you belong to. Democrat, Republican or Independent, no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.”

Obama has also focused largely on education during her eight-year tenure as first lady, and she has often found ways to directly link it to the importance of diversity. At The City College of New York’s commencement ceremony in June 2016 she talked about why differences only strengthen people and generate new ideas.

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The First Lady offered stirring words of wisdom touching on diversity, the dangers of Trump and how President Obama is “the son of a man from Kenya.”

“[Diversity] is the power of our differences to make us smarter and more creative,” she said. “And that is how all those infusions of new cultures and ideas, generation after generation, created the matchless alchemy of our melting pot and helped us build the strongest, most vibrant, most prosperous nation on the planet, right here [in New York City].”

In May 2015 Obama spoke to graduates of the historically Black Tuskegee University in Alabama. She recalled the name-calling and hate that came along with being the first Black first lady.

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At Tuskegee University’s commencement ceremony the First Lady talked about race and how she was perceived during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

“I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do, and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me,” she said.

Obama told the graduates not to let “the chatter, the name calling, the doubting” define them, either.

“[Tuskegee] Airmen who rose above brutal discrimination — they did it so the whole world could see just how high Black folks could soar,” she said. “That’s the spirit we’ve got to summon to take on the challenges we face today.”

She also told the graduates to ask themselves basic questions.

“Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back?” she said. “And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.”

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  • She did make us proud and — should she so choose — could probably be elected President herself. It will be fascinating to see what lies ahead for the Obamas in the future.

    Reply
  • Very classy woman. I can understand her not wanting to getting involved in politics but I do hope she keeps making her voice heard in some way. Will miss what she brought to the role of FLOTUS.

    Reply
  • Mrs. Obama, you did not disappoint. I am greatly honored and proud to have had you as First Lady of our great nation.

    Reply
  • I will miss the President and First Lady immensely. I know that this has been a presidency of a lifetime. The grace and class, the matchless intelligence and thoughtfulness they brought to their roles and the White House will likely never been seen again in my lifetime. So sad to see them go, but I wish them all the best in their new endeavors. I feel confident they will not go quietly into that good night. They will continue to do good for all people and build on the amazing legacy of this Presidency.

    Reply
  • I’ve enjoyed being proud of the First Couple representing our country to the rest of the world. I’m going to miss that.

    Reply
  • Charity Dell

    EMM–I agree. I watched a speech she gave to a convalescent home audience, and I felt inspired
    after listening to her list all the nonsense people told her all her life; that she was “too tall, too dark,
    too ugly” to do and be anything. She overcame all to pursue her dreams of college and law school.
    When she finished her speech, I was ready to vote her into the office of Commander-in-Chief!
    She did us all proud and I am sorry she has to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Reply
    • It’s too bad that Hillary Clinton said such ugly things about President Obama when they were competing for the nomination in 2007. If Clinton could have persuaded Michelle to be her running mate, she would have been able to motivate the democratic base more effectively. But who could blame Michelle for not supporting Clinton with more enthusiasm? Clinton lost because 10% fewer democrats voted than 4 years ago. She lost four states by less than 1%. Think about it. Vladimir’s friend would be licking his wounds right now.

      Reply
  • Charity Dell

    SHELLEY–We’ll be MORTIFIED and HORRIFIED by what comes after! And just think, the
    only “firewall” we have is the intelligence agencies–agencies who are not being listened
    to by the “Cabal of the Late Cretaceous!” However, I suspect that King Nebuchadnezzar
    is about to discover that he,too, can be knocked off his little feet of clay.

    GOD HELP AMERICA!

    Reply
  • Charity Dell

    LUKE–Another scary thought….another ruler from the Late Cretaceous, running to be
    another Ursatz Savior to “save” America from the 40% of us who do not look like him!
    Once King Nebuchadnezzar/Borgia has been toppled off his clay feet–and Barbie and
    Ken Borgia (aka Ivanka and Jared) have departed the palace–do we get to watch
    the Constitution dismantled, line by line? GOD HELP AMERICA!

    Reply
    • I think there are a lot of people who have invested their whole lives in the constitution. You could start with General Clapper and Admiral Rogers.

      I only know Admiral Rogers by reputation, but I’ve met with General Clapper, I don’t think they’re going to let us down. If there’s substance to the allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, he’s toast.

      They are just two patriots who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution with their lives.

      Reply
  • Charity Dell

    LUKE–Vladimir’s Decrepit Darling may well be “licking his wounds” even before the inauguration
    ceremonies commence. Everyone down in “The Swamp” is not pleased with the Daily
    Titillation Reports of The Dumpy Donmeister’s Rollicking Hotel Exploits in Old Muscovy.
    It really is astounding to watch the Daily Meltdown Schedule of the world’s oldest
    Pre-school Head-of-State, and he is nowhere near the White House yet…GOD HELP THE USA.

    Reply
  • Charity Dell

    LUKE–The only “working firewall” we have right now is the Intel Community. They must
    protect us from our President-Select. I assume they will act in their own best interests,
    because each secret agency has to protect its turf, and the Big Baby Brat will not be
    permitted to dismantle the Intel Networks just because he is offended by so-called
    “fake news” reports that are literally spinning out of his out-of-control escapades.
    All this SCANDAL, and we haven’t even seen the inaugural parade yet!

    Reply
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