"Our glorious diversity - our diversities of faiths, and colors, and creeds - that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are," Michelle Obama said Friday during her last public remarks as first lady. She visibly was overcome with emotion as she reflected on her eight years in the White House, and delivered personal messages of empowerment through education, one of her treasured causes.
"So to the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anybody make you feel like you don't matter, or like you don't have a place in our American story because you do, and you have a right to be exactly who you are," she added.
Addressing an audience of educators in the East Room of the White House, Mrs. Obama told them being their first lady has been the greatest honor of her life, reports New York Times. "And I hope I've made you proud."
Her 21-minute speech was an appeal for hope and inclusiveness, opposed to the forces of fear and division.
The setting reportedly encapsulated the combination of "mom in chief" normalcy and celebrity star power Mrs. Obama brought to her public initiatives, including the higher education project being celebrated Friday, the "Let's Move" anti-obesity program and her "Joining Forces" effort to support military families. School counselors being honored for their work filled the East Room, but so did actress Connie Britton, pop star Usher and comedian Jay Pharoah, who have applied their talents to promoting Mrs. Obama's causes.
She alluded to the public scrutiny challenges within the first lady role.
Her aides, Mrs. Obama said as she thanked them by name, "have worked miracles without any staff or budget to speak of - which is how we roll in the first lady's office."
Her voice began to quiver when she, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago and was in the first generation of her family to attend college, spoke of her father, part of a discourse on the power of hope to fuel opportunity.
"The hope of folks like my dad, who got up every day to do his job at the city water plant, the hope that one day his kids would go to college and have opportunities he never dreamed of," Mrs. Obama said. "That's the kind of hope that every single one of us - politicians, parents, preachers, all of us - need to be providing for our young people, because that is what moves this country forward every single day."
As the audience applauded, and Mrs. Obama struggled to keep her emotions in check, attendees wiped away tears.
"Lead by example with hope, never fear," Mrs. Obama said. "And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life."