On Thursday, the former first lady of the United States spoke at a leadership conference in Boston, Massachusetts, and she engaged in a wide-ranging discussion on women's achievement in politics, education, and business alike. And in particular, she reflected on the 2016 presidential election, and the circumstances that led to the country's current political reality. More specifically, Michelle Obama argued women should "embrace a new vision of leadership," in order to one day witness the election of a female president.
Speaking at the 39th Simmons Leadership Conference, an annual women's leadership event, Obama touched on how the 2016 race unfolded, although in keeping with her approach during that campaign, she declined to mention the current commander in chief by name. Obama noted that many people didn't turn out to vote on Election Day, including many women.
"We have to remember that the power for change is within us," Obama said. "We are the answer that we seek. And we're here because once again, a lot of people didn't vote. It's true, or people were sitting out, or people were hedging bets, or women weren't comfortable voting for a woman, sadly."
Especially in this room, we have to own that reality. To me, that's the deeper question for us today as women: What happened? What's going on inside of us, where we're still afraid to embrace a different vision of leadership?
You can view Obama's remarks in the video embedded below, courtesy of CNN. Her aforementioned remarks begin at approximately the 13:20 mark.
She didn't stop there, however. Although she once again quite clearly didn't want to reference President Donald Trump by name, she made it clear that she believes Hillary Clinton's candidacy, while not "perfect," was a whole lot more perfect than that of her competition.
"Because to me, that's what that says. The best qualified candidate in this last race was a woman," Obama said. "And she wasn't perfect, but she was way more perfect than many of the alternatives."
Obama also once again addressed persistent speculation about whether she'll run for office someday, offering yet another straightforward and firm denial. The former first lady has repeatedly and strenuously maintained that she has no interest in launching her own political career for years, but that hasn't stopped the question from coming up in interviews since the conclusion of the 2016 presidential race.
"I have never had the passion for politics. I just happen to be married to somebody who has the passion for politics, and he drug me kicking and screaming into this arena," Obama said. "Just because I gave a good speech and I'm smart and intelligent doesn't mean that I should be the next president. That's not how we should pick the president. That's been our problem: We're very shortsighted about how we think about selecting the commander in chief."
Obama also claimed that the presidency demands a high level of intellect, and that merely surrounding somebody with competent advisers ― many of whom will have conflicting opinions themselves ― is not enough.
"You have to be analytical, you have to be smarter than your advisers in order to do that. So, those are the women that we need to seek out. Not just the women who have passion, and move us, and make us feel good," she said. "That's what we look for. You know, this notion that we want our president to make us feel a certain way is important, yes ― but it is more important that they understand the issues not just in this country, but around the world."
It's fair to say that Obama was very well-received by the assembled crowd, and while in the White House, she was a consistently popular and admired figure. If you're interested in watching her full interview at the conference on Thursday, you can do so here, or through the video embedded above. Suffice it to say, she has plenty of thoughts about the state of women's leadership in our current political and cultural era.