First lady urges hope over fear at school counselors' ceremony
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An unusually emotional Michelle Obama said Friday that being first lady "has been the greatest honor of my life."
Her voice broke and her eyes filled with tears as she bid an early farewell to the White House. She spoke at an East Room ceremony honoring the 2017 school counselor of the year and the work of all school counselors. It marked her final event as first lady.
Before the tearful goodbye, she had words of encouragement for young people. Obama, as she has done many times in eight years in the White House, urged kids to get the best education they can. She asked them to then use that education to "lead by example with hope, never fear."
"Don't be afraid," she said.
Standing Up For Proud American Values
The first lady also praised the "glorious diversity" of people of all faiths, colors and beliefs in America. Diversity is "not a threat to who we are" but is what "makes us who we are," she said. Her comment seemed to be a rebuke of President-elect Donald Trump. Trump criticized Mexicans, Muslims and others throughout his presidential campaign.
"To the young people out there, do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don't matter or like you don't have a place in our American story, because you do," Obama said. "And you have a right to be exactly who you are."
She urged them to get ready to add their voices to the national conversation. "Stand up for our proud American values," she said.
Obama offered advice for when they face hurdles and feel like giving up. She asked them to remember what she said she and President Barack Obama have talked about since first starting their journey to the White House nearly 10 years ago. "That is the power of hope."
School Counselors Influence Choice To Attend College
She said hope has been important for the couple. It has allowed them to "rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear, that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country."
Mrs. Obama ended the appearance by thanking the school counselors standing behind her for their hard work and dedication. Among the counselors was the 2017 honoree Terri Tchorzynski. She is from the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. Obama has said school counselors often have a great deal of influence in whether a student decides to attend college.
"Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I've made you proud," Mrs. Obama said.
She and her husband will leave the White House on January 20. She has said she will continue to work on issues she championed as first lady. Her causes include education, keeping kids from being overweight and supporting military families.