During a recent speech in New Orleans, former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about race and the unique pressure she and husband Barack Obama faced in the White House during his time as the nation's first black president

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June 25, 2018 05:15 PM

During a recent speech in New Orleans, former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about race and the unique pressure she and husband Barack Obama faced in the White House during his time as the nation’s first black president.

“Barack and I knew very early that we would be measured by a different yardstick,” Obama, 54, said during a talk at the American Library Association’s annual conference in New Orleans on Friday. “Making mistakes was not an option for us. Not that we didn’t make mistakes, but we had to be good — no, we had to be outstanding — at everything we did. … When you’re the first, you’re the one that’s laying the red carpet down for others to follow.”

She also touched on the dangers of judging people by the color of their skin, something she says she’s experienced first-hand.

“It’s just a shame that sometimes people will see me, and they will only see my color, and then they’ll make certain judgments about that,” she said. “That’s dangerous, for us to dehumanize each other in that way. We are all just people.”

Michelle Obama
Gerald Herbert/AP/Shutterstock

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Obama’s appearance comes a few months before the release of her upcoming memoir, Becoming, due out in November.

The former first lady announced the title and release date for her book in a February statement to PEOPLE, saying, “Writing Becoming has been a deeply personal experience. It has allowed me, for the very first time, the space to honestly reflect on the unexpected trajectory of my life … how a little girl from the South Side of Chicago found her voice and developed the strength to use it to empower others.”

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