Michelle Obama delivered her final speech as First Lady of the United States on Friday. Obama gave her closing remarks at the 2017 School Counselor of the Year event at the White House, continuing a tradition first established by the First Lady back in 2015. The speech came exactly two weeks before Trump's scheduled inauguration.
After thanking all those who have made her Reach Higher initiative a success, Obama spoke on the importance of maintaining that sense of progress in the months and years ahead. "When we first came up with this idea, we had one clear goal in mind," Obama said. "We wanted to make higher education cool." Keeping the spotlight on American celebrities, Obama added, sends the wrong message to young people looking for a future.
"As I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people," Obama said later. "For all the young people in this room and that are watching, know that this country belongs to you, to all of you. If you or your parents are immigrants, you are part of a proud American tradition."
Diversity, Obama added, is not a "threat" to who we are as a nation. "It makes us who we are," she said. "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." For today's young people, Obama noted that protecting those ideas and strengthening those freedoms is a shared responsibility that starts now.
"So, that's my final message to young people as First Lady," Obama said. "It's simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don't be afraid. Do you hear me, young people? Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourself with a good education."
President Obama's own farewell speech will take place Jan. 10 in Chicago. "I'm just beginning to write my remarks," Obama said when announcing the event last week. "But I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here."