As President Barack Obama’s presidency comes to an end, Americans are preparing to say goodbye to First Lady Michelle Obama, who has come to be known for her graciousness and style over the last eight years.
Here are 11 inspiring and powerful quotes from Obama during her time as first lady.
On maintaining dignity: “When they go low, we go high.” (In her Democratic National Convention speech, 2016)
On young people and the future: “I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong, so don’t be afraid. You hear me? Young people, don’t be afraid. Be focused, be determined, be hopeful, be empowered … Lead by example with hope, never fear, and know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.” (In her final address from White House, 2017)
On remaining focused: “One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals.” (In a Marie Claire interview, 2008)
On maintaining hope in dark times: “See, now we are feeling what not having hope feels like, you know. Hope is necessary. It is a necessary concept. What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?” (In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, 2016)
On the true meaning of success: “Success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you. We realized that being successful isn’t about being impressive, it’s about being inspired. That’s what it means to be true to yourself.” (In her Oregon State University commencement speech, 2012).
On the key to a healthy marriage: “In our house we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and laughter is the best form of unity, I think, in a marriage.” (On Live! With Regis and Kelly, 2011)
On helping others: “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” (To the 2013-2014 White House Fellows, 2013)
On the importance of diversity onscreen: “For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them … I come across many little black girls who come up to me over the course of this 7½ years with tears in their eyes, and they say: ‘Thank you for being a role model for me. I don’t see educated black women on TV, and the fact that you’re first lady validates who I am.'” (In a Variety interview, 2016)
On standing up for women’s education: “Men in every country need to look into their hearts and souls and ask themselves whether they truly view and treat women as their equals. And then when you all encounter men in your lives who answer no to that question, then you need to take them to task. You need to tell them that any man who uses his strength to oppress women is a coward, and he is holding back the progress of his family and his country.” (At the Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, 2014)
On dreams: “This time, in this great country—where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House—we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.” (In her Democratic National Convention speech, 2008)
On having courage: “You may not always have a comfortable life. And you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once. But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.” (At the Young African Women Leaders Forum, 2011)