Michelle Obama Delivers a Stirring, Scathing Speech at the DNC
The former first lady delivered a searing indictment of Trump.
Last night, the Democratic National Convention kicked off with speeches from several high ranking members of the party. We heard from Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Jim Clyburn, and many more. But it was Michelle Obama’s speech that truly reverberated with viewers. The former first lady delivered an 18 minute speech in which she not only endorsed Joe Biden, but also gave voice to the pain and anguish many of us have been feeling for the past four years. It’s a pain made all the more acute by this devastating year, which has seen a pandemic ravage our country, a major economic collapse, and a global reckoning of racial justice.
But perhaps the strongest point Obama made was how thoroughly unfit Donald Trump is to deal with these myriad crises. “So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can,” 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.”
The simplicity and the honesty of her statement resonated with viewers. And while many worried that the pre-taped virtual convention would lack the energy and immediacy of a live event, Obama’s speech didn’t feel rehearsed or removed. There was an intimacy to it, the kind of understanding that comes from having a heart-to-heart with a dear friend. After four years of Trump and his administration gaslighting the country and twisting facts into nonsense, Obama’s candor and honesty cut through the bullshit in an emotional and cathartic release.
Obama called out the Trump administration, which has left us morally and emotionally bereft, saying “Because whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.”
Obama addressed how the cruelty of Trump manifests our worst instincts, saying “But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.”
She also reframed her catch phrase, “when they go low, we go high”, saying “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences. And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.”
Many took to social media to celebrate Michelle Obama, sharing their favorite parts of her speech:
.@MichelleObama: “If we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. We have got to do everything we can to elect my friend, Joe Biden”
— Rebecca Morin (@RebeccaMorin_) August 18, 2020
“When my husband left office…we had a record breaking stretch of job creation. … Four years later, the state of this nation is very different. … Our economy is in shambles” because President Trump didn’t take COVID-19 serious,” @MichelleObama said. #DNC2020
— Aaron L. Morrison (@aaronlmorrison) August 18, 2020
.@MichelleObama with perhaps the most relatable line of night one of the @DemConvention: “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.”
— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) August 18, 2020
The upcoming election is perhaps the most important of my lifetime & yours too.
The future of the country depends on you.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 18, 2020
“‘When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.’ That is the truest form of empathy: not just feeling, but doing; not just for ourselves or our kids, but for everyone, for all our kids,” @MichelleObama pic.twitter.com/zufx9sQaRj
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 18, 2020
Michelle Obama is giving us the talk that Black mothers give their children when they know upcoming behavior will affect their child’s future in dramatic and permanent ways. It’s riven with fear and a profound need to communicate the stakes as she knows them #DemocraticConvention
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) August 18, 2020
It really is extraordinary that the two greatest political communicators of our time fell in love. #DemocraticConvention
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) August 18, 2020
“The presidency is hard. You cannot fake your way through it. I said it: the presidency doesn’t make you who you are it reveals who you are. And an election can reveal who WE are.” @MichelleObama at the #DemConvention #DemocraticConvention
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) August 18, 2020
Trump’s response? He criticized Obama for getting the number of COVID-19 deaths wrong … because they were too low. Well, you sure showed us.
(image: screencap/PBS NewsHour)
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