-Made Speech for the Ages, delivers a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton.
– See Complete Video below and Read the transcript in full
Most convention speeches are forgotten almost before they’re finished. But tonight in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that will be replayed, quoted, and anthologized for years. It was as pure a piece of political oratory as this campaign has offered, and instantly entered the pantheon of great convention speeches.
Obama stepped out onto a stage in front of a divided party, including delegates who had booed almost every mention of the presumptive nominee. And she delivered a speech that united the hall, bringing it to its feet.
She did it, moreover, her own way—forming a striking contrast with the night’s other speakers. She did it without shouting at the crowd. Without overtly slamming Republicans. Without turning explicitly negative. Her speech was laden with sharp barbs, but she delivered them calmly, sometimes wryly, biting her lower lip, hitting her cadence. It was a masterful performance.
She offered an upbeat vision of how far America had come, and—like her husband 12 years before—put herself forward as living evidence of what American ideals might accomplish. “That is the story of this country,” she said.
The story that has brought me to this stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.
When Obama first said that she wakes up every morning in a house built by slaves in a commencement address a month ago, right-wing commentators were quick to attack her as unpatriotic. Instead of backing away from the sentiment, though, she expanded on it. She explained it. She offered it as evidence of American possibility.
And then a First Lady often attacked for lacking patriotism, a woman accused of not loving her country, turned the table on her critics:
So look. So, 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. And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth.
It was an attempt to frame the terms of the 2016 election. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics, more than four in five African Americans, believe that America’s best days lie ahead. Michelle Obama didn’t shy away from the worst of what her country has done, but she insisted that it is improving, that it is already great, and that it can be greater still.
Few politicians have lost by betting on the optimism of the American people.
Watch the Complete Video below
Read the speech in full below
Thank you all, thank you so much. It is hard to believe that it has been eight years since I first came to this convention to talk with you about why I thought my husband should be president. Remember how I told you about his character and his conviction? His decency and grace? The traits we have seen every day as he has served our country in the White House.
I also told you about our daughters, how they are the heart of our hearts, the center of our world, and during our time in the White House we have had the joy of watching them grow from bubbly little girls into poised young women.
A journey that started soon after we arrived in Washington when they set off for their first day at their new school. I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those men with guns. And with all their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, ‘What have we done?’
At that moment, I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation of who they would become. And how well we manage this experience could truly make or break them.
That is what Barack and I think about every day as he tried to guide and protect our girls from the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight. How we urged them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.
With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are the most important role-model.
Let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as president and first lady because we know that our words and actions matter, not just to our girls but the children across this country. Kids who say, “I saw you on TV,” “I wrote the report on you for school.” Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope, and he wondered, ‘Is my hair like yours?’
Make no mistake about it, this November, when we get to the polls, that is what we are deciding. Not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. In this election, and every election, it is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives. I am you tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton.
I trust Hillary to lead this country because I have seen her lifelong devotion to our nation’s children. Not just her own daughter, who she has raised to perfection, but every child who needs a champion: kids who take the long way to school to avoid the gangs. Kids who wonder how they will ever afford college. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but dream of a better life; who look to us to dream of what they can be.
Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless work to actually make a difference in their lives. Advocating for kids with disabilities as a young lawyer, fighting for children’s health care as first lady, and for quality child care in the senate.
And when she did not win the nomination eight years ago, she did not get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home because … Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own disappointment. She proudly stepped up to serve our country once again as secretary of state, traveling the globe to keep our kids safe. There were moments when Hillary could have decided that this work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being [torn] apart for how she looked, or how she talked, or even how she laughed.
But here’s the thing: What I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life. And when I think about the kind of president that I want for my girls and all our children, that is what I want. I want someone with the proven strength to persevere.
Somebody who knows this job and takes it seriously. Somebody who understands that the issues of our nation are not black or white. It cannot be boiled down to 140 characters. Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well informed.
I want a president with a record of public service. Someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves; we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed. And we give back even when we are struggling ourselves because we know that there is someone worse off. There but for the grace of God, go I. I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters.