Michelle Obama has simply shone in her final year as first lady.
Time and again, she said the words we all needed to hear. And Americans responded by giving her high approval ratings.
A formidable campaign surrogate for Hillary Clinton, Obama gave one of the most emotional and powerful speeches of the 2016 election at the Democratic National Convention in July. She asked Americans whom they wanted as a role model for their children and described how she and her husband had dealt with the years of racist allegations that he wasn’t really born in the United States.
Although she didn’t mention him by name that night, Donald Trump had long spread such accusations.
“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level,” Obama said. “No, our motto is: When they go low, we go high.”
Clinton quickly adopted the line as a rallying cry for Democrats.
The first lady also spoke out powerfully after a 2005 tape emerged in which Trump bragged about being free to grab women “by the pussy” because he was a celebrity.
“This wasn’t just locker room banter,” Obama said in October. “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women.”
She went on to frame Trump’s comments through her own experiences and those of many other women.
“The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman,” she said. “It is cruel. It is frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.”
The comments got Trump’s attention, and he lashed out at her on the campaign trail.
In the final year of her husband’s presidency, the first lady also appeared on the cover of T, the New York Times Style Magazine, which featured four tributes to her. She went shopping at CVS with Ellen DeGeneres, was moved to tears by student poets, and threw her arms around former President George W. Bush even as the country seemed to grow more and more divided.
Obama’s eloquence on the campaign trail left many people wondering if she might someday run for political office herself ― an idea that both she and her husband have repeatedly shot down.
“There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for president,” Barack Obama said in January.
The first lady, who was initially wary about her husband entering politics, detailed why she won’t run in a recent interview with Oprah, using the same directness that has endeared her to so many Americans.
“Look, that’s one thing I don’t do: I don’t make stuff up. I’m not coy. ... I’m pretty direct. If I were interested in it, I’d say it. I don’t believe in playing games,” Michelle Obama said.