Michelle Obama Joins Selena Gomez in Urging People to Vote: 'No One Has the Luxury to Sit Out'

"We've got to change the way we think about our democracy," the former first lady said at this week's Culture of Democracy Summit

When We All Vote Founder and Co-Chair Michelle Obama gives the Keynote Speech onstage at When We All Vote Inaugural Culture Of Democracy Summit on June 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Michelle Obama. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty

Michelle Obama joined Selena Gomez Monday at When We All Vote's inaugural Culture of Democracy Summit, urging attendees to vote in upcoming elections and drawing on recent mass shootings and previous events — like the Capitol riots — as examples of how voting matters.

Gomez, 29, introduced the former first lady as a "friend," saying she "couldn't be more proud to be a part of her voting squad."

Drawing on recent tragedies — including the mass shootings at a Buffalo, NY supermarket and a Uvalde, TX elementary school — Mrs. Obama, 58, said: "It has been a hard, hard few weeks for our country."

"I know there's a lot of discussion about what can be done and what should be done to prevent these kinds of shootings," she continued. "And no matter what side you fall on, it is encouraging to see leaders from both parties working, hopefully to find some common ground on this issue, but these kinds of conversations get right to the core of what it means to live in a democracy."

Mrs. Obama went on to discuss voting restrictions being passed in states across the country, including Georgia, Texas, and Iowa.

"Last year alone, 19 states passed bills to restrict voting. That's 87 million people who might find it harder to vote than they would've just a couple of years ago. That's 87 million people votes in this country," she said.

Selena Gomez introduces former first lady Michelle Obama at the Culture of Democracy Summit in Los Angeles Selena Gomez, Los Angeles, United States - 13 Jun 2022
Selena Gomez. Jae C Hong/AP/Shutterstock

Saying that recent history has also seen "states working to change the way elections are administered, putting partisan actors in charge of voting procedures and certification," Mrs. Obama added that watching news stories about recent events can feel distant.

"Here's the most insidious thing we tell ourselves, that it won't happen to me ... We tell ourselves that even though there was an insurrection, presidential election was still in fact certified ... We tell ourselves that our grocery stores won't get shot up by a white supremacist, that our babies will be safe at school, and that my kids will be able to read Toni Morrison in English class, there may be strong men are taking over around the world, but it won't actually happen here. That sure the sea levels are rising, but I don't even live on the beach."

But "there's no guarantee that these issues won't reach every single one of us," she said.

"My point in telling you all of this isn't to rally you up. I am just trying to show you that no one has the luxury to sit out or stay at home just because you're not feeling excited enough," she said.

Voting, Mrs. Obama said, is crucial, but "we need a remix."

"We've got to change the way we think about our democracy. And we've got to change the way we participate in it. Not just every two or four years, but as a routine part of the way that we all live. Just like going to school, checking your phone, flipping on the game after work," she said.

Elsewhere in her remarks, Mrs. Obama called on Congress to "end voter suppression," adding that America needs "national legislation that allows every voter to register on Election Day, that register voters when they're 18 years old."

She advocated for cultural reforms, as well, imploring business owners to give employees election day off, in an effort to make voting easier, and tech workers to "fight against lies and disinformation."

She closed her remarks with a word of encouragement and a nudge for assistance: "I want you to feel inspired and energized because no one person can do this on their own. I can't do it. I need your help."

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