First Lady Michelle Obama has rarely been overcome by emotion in public -- until now

By Tierney McAfee
Updated January 13, 2017 11:00 AM
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Michelle Obama is letting a downright mushy side shine through in her final days as first lady.

While she has always been warm, personal and passionate in her addresses and interactions with the American people over the past eight years, the first lady has rarely been overcome by emotion in public — until now. As Obama says her final goodbyes before departing the White House next week, she has been uncharacteristically sentimental — not to mention teary-eyed.

Here are a few of her most poignant moments in recent weeks:

1. The first lady is serenaded by her all-time favorite artist, Stevie Wonder, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Wonder’s performance of his classics “Isn’t She Lovely” and “My Cherie Amour” — in which he altered the lyrics to “my Michelle amour” — really seemed to tug at the first lady’s heart strings. As Wonder performed on Wednesday, Obama smiled and sang along, and repeatedly covered her mouth with her hands and said “wow.”

Earlier in the show, the first lady said of leaving the White House, “It’s nuts, I feel like crying right now. I didn’t think it would be this emotional. It has been surprisingly emotional for all of us.”

2. In her tearful final speech as first lady, Obama urges young Americans to lead ‘with hope, never fear’

Obama gave her final speech as first lady at the White House last Friday during the 2017 School Counselor of the Year event, where she hosted 50 school counselors and a slew of stars. As first lady, Obama has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of pursuing higher education through her Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives. With tears in her eyes and a voice filled with emotion, she thanked all those who worked with her to help “make higher education cool.”

She also urged young people one last time to empower themselves through education and to “lead by example with hope, never fear.”

“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,” she said.

3. President Obama thanks his wife and daughters in his farewell speech

As the president paid tribute to his wife during his farewell address on Tuesday, the first lady was able to hold it together while her husband and their daughter Malia openly shed tears.

“Michelle – Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the Southside, for the past 25 years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend,” the president said. “You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.”

But when the president switched gears and praised Malia and his younger daughter, Sasha, the first lady sniffled several times as her eyes filled with tears.

“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion,” the president said. “You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”