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Michelle Obama Chokes Up in Final Speech: ‘Being Your First Lady Has Been The Greatest Honor of My Life’

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Michelle Obama on Friday delivered a message of hope directed at young Americans, choking up several times in her final public remarks as First Lady.

“For all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you, to all of you, from every background and walk of life,” said Obama, who spoke out against Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign. “If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition, the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on Earth.”

Obama spoke at a White House event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year, part of her Reach Higher initiative to promote post-secondary education.

“When you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment in our lives. And that is the power of hope, the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it,” she said.

“It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us 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.”

Obama choked up when she mentioned her father and how he had hoped his children might one day attend college.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Neither President Obama nor the First Lady have shared specifics about their post-White House plans, but Michelle Obama has said she will continue working on the issue of higher education.

“I want to close today by simply saying thank you,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.”

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com