First lady honors school counselors and champions the power of hope
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Her voice breaking and eyes filling with tears, an unusually emotional Michelle Obama said Friday that being first lady "has been the greatest honor of my life."
She bid an early farewell to the White House. An East Room ceremony honoring the 2017 school counselor of the year, and the work of all school counselors, marked her final event as first lady.
Before the tearful goodbye, there were 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 and then use it to "lead by example with hope, never fear."
"Don't be afraid," she said.
Diversity Makes Us Who We Are
The first lady also praised the "glorious diversity" of people of all faiths, colors and creeds in America. The diversity is "not a threat to who we are" but is what "makes us who we are," she said. The comment seemed to be a rebuke of President-elect Donald Trump, who 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 and "stand up for our proud American values."
Obama gave them advice for when they encounter obstacles 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 a decade ago, "and that is the power of hope."
School Counselors Help Students Get Into College
She said staying hopeful 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, including the 2017 honoree Terri Tchorzynski, for their hard work and dedication. Tchorzynski is from the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. Obama has said school counselors often are the "deciding factor" in whether a student chooses 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 has said she will continue to work on issues she championed as first lady after she and her husband leave on January 20. Her causes include education, fighting childhood obesity and supporting military families.