While speaking at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit on Friday, the former first lady vowed that she and her husband would continue championing the causes they fought for in office, including her own signature issues of nutrition and health.
“We’re not gone, we’re just breathing, y’all. Let us breathe,” she joked during her conversation with Sam Kass, President Obama’s former White House chef and senior food policy advisor. “We’ve got to get our new lives set up.”
That includes “getting offices set up” and “making sure our kids are good,” she said, adding of daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 16: “I got one kid going to college and another one just being 16.”
That said, Obama added that she and her husband were excited about the future Obama Presidential Center and its potential, “not just on the South Side of Chicago, but in the world.”
Obama said it will take time for her to understand her new platform and figure out where her help is most needed.
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“I’m approaching the next chapter the way I approached this last chapter. I want to be strategic,” she said. “But I want the folks here to know that my commitment to these issues are real. This didn’t have anything to do with me being first lady.”
Her real motivation? Children, including — but certainly not limited to — her own.
“When you hear me getting riled up in this chair, it’s not politics, it’s parenting that’s really moving me,” she said, adding that both politicians and everyday citizens owe it to the nation’s children to “put aside our politics … to not be cynical … to not give up.”
“That matters to kids. That shapes them and it can hurt them when you disappoint them. I love your kids as much as I love mine,” she said. “I just wish we all operated from that place…of what is best for our kids.”
If everyone on Capitol Hill “operated from that place, these issues would be so clear.”
She concluded with a promise — and a question. “You’ve got me as a partner as long as I can be of use,” she said. “So the question for you is, where do you want me?”
“Just let me know and I’ll be here.”