Now that the Obama era is coming to an end, the legacy of the 44th President of the United States is coalescing into a clear form. And while his achievements and controversies in the areas of health care, climate change, and international relations will be well-recorded by historians, it's also the case that President Obama will be remembered as a true family man, not least because first lady Michelle Obama has been both a supportive spouse and a knowledgeable advocate for her husband's policies. As the transcript of Michelle Obama's DNC speech affirms, family and politics are inextricably linked.
From the outset, it was clear that Obama intended to draw a connection between personal responsibility and political ethic. Soon after taking the stage to loud cheers from the crowd in Philadelphia, Obama said that her and Barack's daughters are "the heart of our hearts, the center of our world." She described their experiences as parents soon after moving into the White House, saying that "we as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as president and first lady, because we know that our words and our actions matter, not just to our girls, but to children across this country."
Obama, not unlike presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer prior to becoming first lady. According to her biography at WhiteHouse.gov, the first lady graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, and soon thereafter met Barack, "the man who would become the love of her life," while working at the Sidley & Austin law firm in Chicago.
That Obama has been so well-versed in the areas of health policy and women and girls' rights as the first lady is a direct consequence of her education and background. As an undergraduate at Princeton University, Obama majored in sociology and African-American studies. While living in Chicago as an adult, she served in various roles related to urban development and policy, including spearheading the first community service program at the University of Chicago while serving there as Associate Dean of Student Services.
As first lady, Obama has become known for her work on the Let's Move campaign, which seeks to end the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. More recently, she has spearheaded Let Girls Learn, which is described at its website as "a United States government initiative to ensure adolescent girls get the education they deserve."
In a 2013 Vogue interview, President Obama elaborated on his family's ethic as both public and private figures. "Everything we have done has been viewed through the lens of family," he said. "Beyond just the immediate family to the larger American family, and making sure everybody’s included and making sure that everybody’s got a seat at the table."
It was in this spirit of inclusiveness that the first lady passionately, forcefully, and beautifully threw her support behind Hillary Clinton, stating, "Hillary understands that the president is about one thing and one thing only. It's about leaving something better for our kids."
A full transcript of Michelle Obama's convention remarks can be found below:
Thank you all. Thank you so much. You know, it’s hard to believe that it has been eight years since I first came to this convention to talk with you about why I thought my husband should be president. Remember how I told you about his character and conviction? His decency and his grace. The traits that we’ve seen every day that he’s served our country in the White House.
I also told you about our daughters. How they are the heart of our hearts, the center of our world. During our time in the White House, we’ve had the joy of watching them grow from bubbly little girls into poised young women. A journey that started soon after we arrived in Washington when they set out for their first day at their new school. I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just seven and ten years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was: What have we done?
See, because at that moment, I realized that our time in the White House would form the foundation for who they would become. And how well we managed this experience could truly make or break them. That is what Barack and I think about every day as we try to guide and protect our girls through the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight. How we urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel, or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is: When they go low, we go high.
With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as president and first lady, because we know that our words and our actions matter, not just to our girls, but to children across this country.
Kids who tell us, I saw you on TV! I wrote a report on you for school! Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope, and he wondered, is my hair like yours? And make no mistake about it, this November, when we go to the polls, that is what we’re deciding. Not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, this election, every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives. And I am here tonight, because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility, only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is our friend Hillary Clinton!
See, I trust Hillary to lead this country because I have seen her lifelong devotion to our nation’s children. Not just her own daughter, who she has raised to perfection, but every child who needs a champion. Kids who take the long road to school to avoid the gangs. Kids who wonder how they’ll ever afford college. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English but dream of a better life. Kids who look to us to determine who and what they can be. You see, Hillary has spent decades doing the relentless, thankless work to actually make a difference in their lives. Advocating for kids with disabilities as a young lawyer. Fighting for children’s health care as first lady. And for quality child care in the Senate. And when she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home, because as a true public servant, Hillary knows that this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments. So she proudly stepped up to serve our country once again as secretary of state, traveling the globe to keep our kids safe.
And look, there were plenty of moments when Hillary could have decided the work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being picked apart for how she looks, or how she talks, or even how she laughs. But here's the thing. What I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life. And when I think about the kind of president that I want for my girls, and all of the children, that's what I want. I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues the president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.
Look, because ... because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can't make snap decisions. You can't have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well informed. I want a president with a record of public service, someone whose life work shows us and shows our children that we don't chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed. And we give back, even when we're struggling ourselves, because we know that there's always someone worse off. And there but for the grace of God, go I.
I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters. A president who truly believes in the vision that our founders put forth all those years ago, that we are all created equal, each a beloved part of the great American story. And when a crisis hits, we don't turn against each other. No, we listen to each other, we lean on each other. Because we are always stronger together. And I am here tonight because I know that that is the kind of president that Hillary Clinton will be. And that's why in this election, I'm with her.
You see, Hillary understands that the president is about one thing and one thing only. It's about leaving something better for our kids. That's how we've always moved this country forward, by all of us coming together on behalf of our children. Folks who volunteer to coach that team, to teach that Sunday school class, because they know it takes a village. Heroes of every color and creed who wear the uniform and risk their lives to keep passing down those blessings of liberty. Police officers and protesters in Dallas who all desperately want to keep our children safe. People who lined up in Orlando to donate blood because it could have been their son, their daughter in that club. Leaders like Tim Kaine, who show our kids what decency and devotion look like. Leaders like Hillary Clinton, who has the guts and the grace to keep coming back and putting those cracks in the highest and hardest glass ceiling until she finally breaks through, lifting all of us along with her.
That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of those generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters, two beautiful and intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.
And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters — and all of our sons and daughters — now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.
So, look. Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth.