Former First Lady Michelle Obama gave a stirring speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Monday night (Aug. 17). Obama began her speech by referencing how the pandemic has been a “hard time,” and “everyone’s feeling it.”
“It’s a hard time, and everyone’s feeling it in different ways. And I know a lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now or to politics in general. Believe me, I get that. But I am here tonight because I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting,” Obama said.
“I’ve met so many of you. I’ve heard your stories. And through you, I have seen this country’s promise. And thanks to so many who came before me, thanks to their toil and sweat and blood, I’ve been able to live that promise myself.”
The former First Lady then talked about “the story of America,” and how many “sacrificed and overcame so much in their own times because they wanted something more, something better for their kids.”
“There’s a lot of beauty in that story. There’s a lot of pain in it, too, a lot of struggle and injustice and work left to do. And who we choose as our president in this election will determine whether or not we honor that struggle and chip away at that injustice and keep alive the very possibility of finishing that work,” she said.
“I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen firsthand the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency. And let me once again tell you this: the job is hard. It requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen—and an abiding belief that each of the 330,000,000 lives in this country has meaning and worth.”
“A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job,” she continued.
During the middle of Obama’s speech, she talked about how the nation is now vastly different from when her husband, Barack Obama was president. “Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. More than 150,000 people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long. It has left millions of people jobless,” she said.
“Too many have lost their health care; too many are struggling to take care of basic necessities like food and rent; too many communities have been left in the lurch to grapple with whether and how to open our schools safely. Internationally, we’ve turned our back, not just on agreements forged by my husband, but on alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.”
Michelle Obama concluded her speech by talking about who she believes America is before urging citizens to vote. “This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth,” she said.
Throwing a bit of a barb at the current President, she said, “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.” That was a reference to the President’s comment “It is what it is” in a recent interview, when he was asked about the coronavirus death toll. One op-ed said that Obama wrote a “five-word epitaph for Trump’s presidency” with the speech.
“So it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis who said, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.”
Watch the full speech here.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan.