Michelle Obama's grace, poise, and eloquence have made her one of the most impactful First Ladies in American history. Growing on the tradition of First Ladies before her, Obama has tackled some of the most difficult issues of the modern era in her now-legendary speeches, and she's added the uniquely personal lens of her race, gender, and socioeconomic background. Michelle Obama's most dazzling speeches as FLOTUS have focused on the black condition, the reality of womanhood, and the strength of a single voice in America — the same things that defined her tenure in the White House and her legacy going forward.
Obama faced more than her fair share of backlash from her boldness and determination to publicly discuss difficult issues, but she never backed down. Even when people did and said everything they could to try and tear her down, Obama proved that a positive attitude and the moral high ground can still move dialogue and attitudes forward.
"When they go low, we go high" will be the motto of a generation, particularly for young women of color who face the same struggles that Obama did growing up on the South Side of Chicago. These speeches give hope that new generations of young women will be empowered for years to come and continue doing the work of building a stronger foundation for the United States.
This one was technically before she was First Lady, but it was essentially the beginning of her time as FLOTUS since she so thoroughly won the country's heart with her emotional and relatable speech. It's how the country first really got to know the Obamas and helped cement their road to the White House.
Maya Angelou's Memorial Service
Obama's speech at Angelou's memorial service was the perfect ode to her blackness and one of the role models who made it possible for her to succeed in life the way she has. "For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou's words —words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House," Obama said, particularly referencing Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman."
City College of New York Commencement Address
This speech will live on in history books forever for Obama's powerful and unabashed recognition of the history of the White House. "It's the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, black young women — head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to American -- to America for the same reasons as many of you: To get an education and improve his prospects in life," Obama said.
Speaking from her incredible wealth of experience during the last eight years, Obama urged the country to approach the upcoming election with the same hope and optimism that led her husband to the presidency in 2008. "Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth," Obama said.
Hillary Clinton's Manchester Rally
Obama's emotional takedown of Donald Trump's then-freshly released 2005 sexually lewd recording was an incredibly strong reminder of how important it is not to let his attitude on women take hold in America. "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, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse."