Michelle Obama delivered her final speech as first lady on Friday, tearing up as she urged young Americans to always “lead by example with hope, never fear.”
Diversity “makes us who we are,” Obama said at the 2017 School Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House, where she hosted 50 school counselors and a slew of stars. “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story. You do.”
“So, that’s my final message to young people as First Lady,” she continued. “It’s simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid. Do you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourself with a good education.”
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The first lady also acknowledged some big stars in the crowd, including Usher, La La Anthony, Connie Britton, Andy Cohen, Jay Pharoah, rapper Wale and Kelly Rowland.
After thanking those who worked with her to help “make higher education cool” and praising the educators gathered in the room, Obama continued: “As I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people. For all the young people in this room and that are watching, know that this country belongs to you, to all of you. If you or your parents are immigrants, you are part of a proud American tradition.”
“If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming president. That’s what the American dream is all about,” she said to applause.
The first lady concluded her speech by promising “that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”
“Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud,” she said.
Obama’s speech, which comes exactly two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, won’t be the last we see of her before she leaves office.
The first lady is set to appear on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon next Wednesday.