“I think we can all agree that this has been a rough week in an already rough election,” First Lady Michelle Obama began during her speech at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday.
Many are calling Obama’s speech, which denounced Republican presidential candidateTrump’s behavior toward women, a defining moment of the presidential campaign.
Not addressing Trump by name, Obama said “we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today.
“And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women.”
She said the election has devolved from one of ideology to one of human decency.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” she said. “I cannot stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”
The first ladycommented that what’s occurring in the election is distorted politics.
“This is not normal,” she said. “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 addressed how women, and all Americans, are trying to grapple with Trump’s actions and rhetoric.
“All of us are doing what women have always done, just trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it,” she said. “Trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us. Maybe because we think that admitting howmuch it hurts makes us as women look weak.
“Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing our emotions and staying quiet because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his.”
She told the crowd that International Day of the Girl and Let Girls Learn was celebrated on Tuesday at the White House with young women from the U.S. and abroad.Let Girls Learnwas launched by the Obamas in March 2015, bringing together federal agencies to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education.
“I told them that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I told them that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them, and that they should make their voices heard in the world,” Obama said as her voice quivered with emotion. “And I walked away feeling so inspired.”
She then paralleled her experience on Tuesday with the message she had to deliver on Thursday:
“And now, here I am, out on the campaign trail in an election where we have consistently been hearing hurtful, hateful language about women language that has been painful for so many of us, not just as women, but as parents trying to protect our children and raise them to be caring, respectful adults, and as citizens who think that our nation’s leaders should meet basic standards of human decency.”
In June, the first lady was the commencement speaker at The City College of New York’s graduation ceremony, where she first warnedof the perils of Trump’s political rhetoric.
“Unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective,” Obama said. “They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped.They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree.
“They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.”