13 Important Takeaways from Michelle Obama’s Farewell Interview with Oprah Winfrey
Published:20 Dec, 2016
Michelle Obama sat down with Oprah Winfrey on Monday night for her final farewell interview at the White House, and it was just as emotional, empowering, and beautiful as you’d expect it to be.
Here are just a few of the biggest takeaways and standout revelations from the CBS interview, which will air again on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m. on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
1. This election was just as tough for her as it was for you. The First Lady hit the campaign trail hard in support of Hillary Clinton this year, but as she explained to Oprah, this election was just as hard for her as a citizen as it was for her as First Lady. In the interview, Obama revealed she had gone to bed before the results of the election were called, only to wake up and find out Donald Trump had won when she checked her phone in the morning.
“This past election was challenging for me as a citizen,” she said. “To watch and experience. It was painful.”
2. Fellow WOC, take it from her: Racism is a reflection on the people being racist more than it is a reflection on you. Throughout her time as First Lady, and even when her husband was first campaigning back in 2007, Obama has been subjected to countless racist remarks and unforgivable levels of disrespect. But while at first, these remarks took her aback, she ultimately realized that what these horrific trolls were saying wasn’t in any way a reflection on her, but more a reflection on them.
“You know, color, wealth — these things that don’t matter still play too much of a role in how we see one other,” she said. “And it’s sad, because the things that least define us as people is the color of our skin, it’s the size of our bank account. None of that matters.”
“It’s our values,” she continued. “It’s how we live our lives. You can’t tell that from somebody’s race, somebody’s religion. People have to act it out. They have to live those lives. So that was the blow back, and then I thought, OK, well, let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and judge for themselves. And that’s what I want young people to do. Just live your life.”
3. The Obamas are truly the greatest couple of all time. In the middle of the interview, President Barack Obama popped in as a surprise guest, gushing about his wife and once against proving what an incredible power couple they are.
“We all knew she was brilliant and cute and strong and a great mom,” Obama said of his wife. “But I think the way she blended purpose and policy with fun so that she was able to reach beyond Washington, on her health care initiative and her military family work, it was masterful.”
4. The First Lady has no intentions of running for office. Ever. Bursting bubbles and breaking hearts everywhere, Obama reiterated that she has no intentions of running for president in 2020 or beyond, both because of what a difficult job it is and because she wouldn’t want to put her family through it again.
“The next family that comes in here, every person in that family — every child, every grandchild — their lives will be turned upside down in a way that no American really understands,” she said. “And it’s not for us to complain about it, so you don’t hear complaints, but it is a truth, an actuality, that there is a weight to it.”
“People don’t really understand how hard this is,” she continued. “And it’s not something that you cavalierly just sort of ask a family to do again.”
5. Her mom will be leaving D.C. to go back to Chicago as soon as they’re out of office. While both the President and First Lady were vague about where they plan to move after Sasha finishes high school, the First Lady made it very clear that at least one member of the family would be peacing out as quickly as possible: her mother.
“She’s going back to Chicago — she’s, like, ‘Bye, Felicia,'” she said. “Grandma is done.”
6. Malia and Sasha are both going through their rebellious teen phase. Yes, even members of the First Family aren’t immune to teenage hormones, and given that most teens “start to bristle against all kinds of authority” at some point, it makes sense that growing up in the White House might have its own set of problems. Luckily, the First Lady acknowledged that they’ve mostly been able to work through any “tensions.”
“Imagine being 18, 17, 16, 15, and you’ve got at least eight men with guns driving you around,” she said. “Walking into your parties. You know, not letting you ride in friends’ cars. I mean, there were those tensions, for sure, that we had to sort of work through.”
7. In her opinion, her greatest achievement has been setting an example for young women everywhere — especially young black women. During her interview, she discussed how proud she is that so many young women got to see “somebody educated, strong [and] outspoken … on a regular basis” during her time as First Lady.
8. Sometimes you have to brush off the haters if you want to move forward. In order to get through her everyday life, the First Lady often just has to put on her blockers and power through — incredible advice for even us plebeians.
9. Words matter. Throughout the interview, the First Lady continuously reiterated how much words matter — especially for kids.
“Words matter,” she said. “What we say, how we behave — we are modeling to the next generation.”
10. Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are definitely going to go glamping soon. Now that the First Lady is about to have some free time, Oprah is trying to sell her on taking a fabulous vacation. Just imagine how epic it would be to go glamping with two of the most powerful, incredible, and influential humans in the world.
11. She and the President are ready to do whatever is necessary to help the Trumps succeed. The First Lady is ready to pass on the torch to her successor, Melania Trump, and has said “the door is open.”
“Words matter,” she said. “[T]he words that we say moving forward, all of us, it matters. Which is one of the reasons why Barack and I are so supportive of this transition. Because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the commander-in-chief.”
12. That being said, she still can’t wrap her head around the leaked audio tape between Trump and Billy Bush. After The Washington Post first published the clip, Obama responded with a fiery, impassioned speech pointing out precisely why it was so inappropriate and scary — and of course, she still stands by what she said 100 percent.
“You know, to have a candidate for the presidency speaking in such terms about women, as I said, was not — it was not a normal thing,” she said in the interview. “So my response, you know, in light of what I was seeing from my female staff, what I was hearing from my daughters, their reaction to it, for me required a different kind of response.”
“You can’t just stand before people and just give a regular political speech,” she continued. “Something that Barack and I have always tried to be, in this office, is honest … A lot of people had been shaken to their core. And still are. They are still feeling the reverberations of that kind of caustic language.”
13. Hope is more important than ever. Given that one of the biggest parts of Barack Obama’s campaign was hope, Oprah asked if she felt the First Lady thought her husband lived up to maintaining it.
“Yes, I do — because we feel the difference now,” she said. “See, now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like. You know? Hope is necessary. It’s a necessary concept.”
“And Barack didn’t just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes,” she continued. “I mean, he and I and so many believe that if you — what else do you have if you don’t have hope?”