Michelle Obama gave an emotional final speech as first lady on Friday, addressing an initiative she has worked on since her husband took office eight years ago: education.
“For all the young people in this room and those who are watching: Know that this country belongs to you, to all of you from every background and walk of life,” Obama told the crowd of educators, celebrities, and supporters she gathered to honor the Counselor of the Year.
“If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition – the infusion of new cultures, talents, and ideas generation after generation,” she continued. “That has made us the greatest country on earth.”
Obama is leaving the White House as an extraordinarily popular first lady, with a favorability rating of 72%.
She was perhaps Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s most effective surrogate on the campaign trail, giving a particularly emotional speech after the release of the 2005 tape of President-elect Donald Trump making lewd remarks about women.
On Friday, Obama was nostalgic. The women surrounding her cried and cheered, interrupting her as she spoke.
“That’s my final message to young people as first lady – it is simple,” Obama said to a roar of applause. “I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you – rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”
Obama held back tears as she said her final official address.
“I want to close today by simply saying thank-you,” she said. “Thank-you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.”