dnc 2020

Michelle Obama Delivers a Stirring, Scathing Speech at the DNC

The former first lady delivered a searing indictment of Trump.
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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:

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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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.