Donald Trump would go on to win the White House, thanks in no small part to those “low” tactics, which have since become a fixture of his administration.
Now, going on two years later, would the former first lady like to amend her remarks?
Not really. Except to note that “going high” doesn’t mean backing down from what you believe in.
Obama expanded on the thought in an interview with Blavity, a media website centered around black millennials, encouraging readers ― and politicians ― to not undercut themselves by stooping to Trump’s level:
“I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high ― always and without exception,” she said. “It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?
“When someone’s trying to pull you down into the mud, it takes a lot less effort to give in and join them in the muck than to keep yourself upright, standing tall. If you allow yourself to play on their terms, they win. It’s what they want you to do. You can’t give them the satisfaction.”
Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shy away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul — your whole value system — and not just whatever happens to be your stance on a given issue. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it’s also about the person you want to be — and the kind of country you want to have.
What Barack and I have always tried to do is this: When the haters come our way, we don’t let them distract us from our purpose. We brush them off when we can, and we deal with them when we need to. But we never lose sight of our goal. We never stop working. And we never stop trying to set a good example for the next generation — not just for our two daughters but everyone’s kids. Do we want the next generation to be angry? Do we want them to be spiteful and petty? Or do we want them to live by the values that our parents taught us — values like honesty and generosity and respect?
I think the answer is easy enough. And it’s an answer that always applies, not just when it’s easy.
Read the full interview on Blavity.