Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

History Made: The Legacy of Michelle Obama. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:05] ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It was nothing in my life as a black girl from the South Side of Chicago that would have said I should be standing here.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Her journey is nothing less than remarkable. First lady Michelle Obama, once a reluctant campaigner --

M. OBAMA: The truth is, is that most Americans don't opt into this.

KAYE: -- and a target on the campaign trail --

M. OBAMA: It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me?

KAYE: -- now a voice for generations.

M. OBAMA: The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.

KAYE: Mom in chief turned political dynamite.

M. OBAMA: Our motto is when they go low, we go high.

KAYE: Tonight a revealing look at first lady Michelle Obama. She's more than the first African-American first lady. Today she's a global icon and a political powerhouse.

I'm Randi Kaye, and this is a CNN Special Report, "History Made: The Legacy of Michelle Obama.

January 17, 1964, on the South Side of Chicago, a future first lady is born. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson grew up in a one bedroom apartment in a working class neighborhood known as the South Shore. Her older brother Craig remembers it well.

CRAIG ROBINSON, BROTHER: We didn't know how poor we were. So it was terrific.

KAYE: Her mother, Marian Robinson, volunteered at school so she could keep a close eye on her children. Her father, Fraser Robinson, worked for the city's water department. In his early 30s, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

ROBINSON: We watched a man who was disabled, get up and go to work every day. M. OBAMA: He was our provider. He was our champion, our hero. But, as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, took him longer to get dressed in the morning. You know, but if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing.

JODI KANTOR, NY TIMES CORRESPONDENT AND AUTHOR, "THE OBAMAS": He conducted himself with so much dignity and so much purpose and was so committed to his family and so committed to his kids that he left that family with something very deep they seemed to come back to again and again.

KAYE: Her father instilled in her a sense of hard work and commitment. The young Michelle Robinson was a good student who played piano and liked to write short stories. At Whitney Young Magnet School, she was class treasurer. He brother recalled his little sister's strong will.

She bossed you around.

ROBINSON: Oh, yeah. Whatever games we wanted to play, she wanted to play we played.

KAYE: Every night they had dinner as a family and often went to drive-in movies.

KANTOR: They lived in a small bungalow, but there was an idyllic quality to the way she describes her family, the warmth of her parents, the stability she felt coming from them, even though they didn't have a lot of means, they had an immense believe in education and its power.

KAYE: When her brother got into Princeton University, the future first lady was determined to attend the same Ivy League school.

ROBINSON: And the story she tells, "If Craig can get in there, I certainly can." So she applied and got in, and you're laughing, but that's how she thinks.

KAYE: At Princeton, she majored in sociology with a focus on African- American Studies. She went on to Harvard Law School. Then in 1988 took a job with Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago. That is where she would meet the man who would change her life. To hear her tell it, the one with the funny-sounding name.

M. OBAMA: I probably did what a lot of people do when they hear about Barack Obama. First I thought, what kind of name is Barack Obama?

KAYE: She was to mentor him at the law firm, but he was late on his first day and hardly made a good impression. Still, when Barack Obama didn't see a ring on her finger, he asked her out.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, she thought it was inappropriate to have any inner office dating, even though I was only there for the summer.

KAYE: Michelle Robinson eventually agreed to go out with him. [21:05:00] M. OBAMA: So I said OK. We'll go on this one, but we won't call it a date, I'll spend the day with you.

B. OBAMA: At that point, I thought, OK, I think, I've got something going.

M. OBAMA: And by the end of that date, it was over. I was sold.

KAYE: But she still had another test that Barack Obama needed to pass.

ROBINSON: My sister had heard my dad and I talking about how you can tell a guy's true character when you take him out on the basketball court. So she asked me to take him to go play. Had a gauntlet for the guy to run through.

KAYE: So when the game was over, what did you report back to your sister?

ROBINSON: Well, I told my sister, I was like, this guy is terrific.

KAYE: Barack and Michelle Obama married in 1992. Her father had died the year before.

KANTOR: He never lived to see the things that the Obamas would go on to do. But he's kind of the family's load star.

M. OBAMA: He is the hole in my heart. His loss is my scar. But let me tell you something. His memory drives me forward every single day of my life. Every day I work to make him proud.

KAYE: The couple settled in Chicago, where in 1998, Michelle Obama gave birth to their first daughter, Malia. Sasha would arrive a few years later. Mrs. Obama eventually left corporate law and landed a job at the University of Chicago Hospitals. She would soon leave her high-powered job behind.

B. OBAMA: Do you believe in what this country can be?

KAYE: By now, her husband Barack Obama was Senator Barack Obama, and he had his sights set on the White House.

KATI MARTON, HIDDEN POWER: PRESIDENTIAL MARRIAGES THAT SHAPED OUR HISTORY: Author, Michelle gave up a big career, but there is nothing to compete with this historic opportunity for those who sense that they can be a part of history.

B. OBAMA: She is the love of my life, the rock of our household.

M. OBAMA: When you strip away Princeton and Harvard and all those wonderful degrees and accomplishments, deep down inside, I'm just a girl who grew up in the south side of Chicago.

KAYE: Candid and confident, qualities instilled in her by her parents went a long way with voters on the campaign trail. M. OBAMA: Because every time in my life, when I tried to do something, there were people around telling me why I couldn't.

KAYE: And Mrs. Obama was a bridge to African-American women, in ways like no one else who came before her.

M. OBAMA: My question to you all is, can we do this?

KAYE: Even early in her husband's political career, her style earned her the nickname, "The Closer."

M. OBAMA: Can we do this?

CROWD: Yes we can.

VAN JONES, WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISOR (2009): She's a closer, because she's going to stand up there and she's going to get right down to the brass tacks of what's happening in the country and what we need to do, and let's get on with it.

KAYE: Her brother always expected big things from her, just not this.

ROBINSON: You know, astronaut maybe or first woman to swim around the world or something completely out of the ordinary, but first lady? That would have been at the bottom of my list.

KAYE: Yet there she was, election night 2008. This woman who'd grown up poor and whose ancestors were slaves celebrating her husband's victory and her future as first lady.

M. OBAMA: I looked at him, and I said you are the 44th president of the United States of America. Wow, what a country we live in.

KAYE: When you saw Michelle Obama walk out on that stage in Grant Park in Chicago, how did you feel?

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, CULTURAL CRITIC/WRITER: She look like she belonged there, and that's how I felt. I felt like I belong here. And all my ancestors belonged here. Everyone that ever dreamed about her was validated in that moment.

DAVID AXELROD, CHIEF STRATEGIST, OBAMA'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: They went from a relatively normal middle class family living in a small apartment in Hyde Park in Chicago to becoming the first family of the nation. And there's no way to prepare for that or the pressures associated with that.

KAYE: The pressures indeed. Coming up, Michelle Obama and the balancing act of being first lady and mom in chief.


[21:14:04] KAYE: January 20th, 2009, Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States.

B. OBAMA: I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear -- KAYE: At his side, the country's new first lady, a first lady who makes it clear she'll put parenting before politics.

M. OBAMA: And I've, you know, I had to juggle becoming mom in chief and having a career for a long time. The primary focus for the first year will be making sure that the kids make it through the transition.

MARTON: Presidents and their wives tend to neglect their children, frankly, because they're so power obsessed and they're so obsessed with the long road to get elected that the children often suffer, and this is not the case with the Obama's children.

KANTOR: She wanted her children to still be able to live their lives, and I think what the Obamas found out is that's not entirely possible. They're very young, starting a new school. She really wanted to just take them there in the mornings. For her to take the kids to school meant there had to be cars, that there had to be security, there were traffic issues.

[21:15:13] KAYE: Instead, Sasha and Malia, just 7 and 10, went off to school with secret service agents and Mrs. Obama's mother.

M. OBAMA: Raising our girls in the White House with my mom, uh, not going to do this, is a beautiful experience.

KANTOR: They didn't know any of this before they moved to the White House. They had never lived a life like this. What about something like dance performance, you know, or a basketball game at the girls' school. Would the president and first lady be allowed to attend?

M. OBAMA: The theme for this year's event is ready, set, what? Go!

KAYE: Committed to creating a sense of normalcy, Mrs. Obama had a talk with the White House staff.

M. OBAMA: I said, you know, we're going to have to set up some boundaries, because they're going to need to be able to make their beds.

AXELROD: Those early years in the White House were a real adjustment for Michelle. She had to start over in many ways and she had to do it under the watchful eye of the world. And that's a lot of pressure.

MARTON: Each first lady redefines the role, and she defined it as mom in chief. And she went for issues that were not controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -- her ready yeah.

KAYE: As Malia and Sasha settled in, Mrs. Obama began to focus on not just what was best for her own girls, but what was best for the nation's children.

M. OBAMA: You can lift up the grass with the pitch foot. Go, go, go.

KAYE: In 2009, on the first day of spring, the first lady broke ground on the White House garden, located on the south lawn, the garden was designed to get kids more interested in vegetables and healthy eating.

M. OBAMA: Let's hear it for fruits! Yeah! What, did I hear, a boo?

KAYE: Mrs. Obama took healthy eating a step further in 2010, launching her hugely popular "Let's Move" campaign, to help curb childhood obesity.

M. OBAMA: Clearly we're determined to finally take on one of the most serious threats to their future. And that's the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today.

Let's move, let's move. Let's move, let's move.

KAYE: She encouraged kids to be more physically active, running, dancing and poking fun at herself to make her point.

M. OBAMA: "Let's Move" is going to take families out of their isolation and give them the nationwide support that they need.

Turn up for what?

KAYE: She also danced with Big Bird, Ellen and Jimmy Fallon, too

M. OBAMA: We want to end the epidemic in a generation. We really aiming at children born today, because our goal is that if we begin shaping habits and shaping the conversation that will change the habits of young people today.

KAYE: Still, not everyone was impressed.

SARAH PALIN, AMERICAN POLITICIAN: Who should be making the decisions what she eat, school choice and everything else? Should it be government or should it be the parents? It should be the parents.

KAYE: In a show of defiance, Republican Sarah Palin once brought sugar cookies to a school fundraiser to protest what she called a nanny state and the idea of nutritional nit-picking.

COKIE ROBERTS, AUTHOR: We're living in such a polarized partisan time that if she had said the sky is blue, they would have said, no it's red.

M. OBAMA: We've some girl scouts who are here. Woo for the girl scouts.

KAYE: But the criticism didn't slow down Michelle Obama's commitment to kids. In 2014 her "Reach Higher" initiative encouraged young people to go to college. And in 2015, she launched "Let Girls Learn", a program to help girls around the world stay in school.

M. OBAMA: One of these girls could have the potential to cure cancer or start a business that transforms an industry or become the next president or prime minister who inspires her country. But if she never sets foot in a classroom, chances are she will never discover or fulfill that potential.

DAVIS: She understood that if humanity is going to survive, it's going to be in the hands of women.

KAYE: Which maybe why she joined the effort to bring home more than 200 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

M. OBAMA: In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes and their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.

[20:20:08] KANTOR: She would identify with those kids' struggles. Her message again and again was, "Look at me, I wasn't born to a family of, you know, any great wealth or education. There was no math in my life that said I would become first lady of the United States and yet I did it."

M. OBAMA: I loved getting A's. I liked being smart. I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world. And you, too, with these same values can control your own destiny. You, too, can pave the way. You are the women who will build the world as it should be. You're going to write the next chapter in history.

JONES: If you're a parent, you are happy that Michelle Obama exists. If you're trying to raise young women, you are happy that Michelle Obama exists. Because she's tough, she's strong, she's beautiful. She said your homework is more important than your boyfriend. That's from the first lady. Thank you, Michelle.

KAYE: She did it all without ever losing sight of those two very special girls who called the White House home for the last eight years.

M. OBAMA: And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They're the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night.

KAYE: Michelle Obama found her passionate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but getting there was a struggle, tinged with personal attacks and racist remarks.

M. OBAMA: It knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, well just how are people seeing me? Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a "terrorist fist jab." And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of uppityism. Another noted that I was one of my husband's cronies of color. Cable news charmingly referred to me as "Obama's Baby Mama."

KAYE: Coming up, how she went high when they went low.


[20:26:41] M. OBAMA: Make sure she caucuses for Barack Obama.

KAYE: From the outset, Michelle Obama was a reluctant campaigner.

M. OBAMA: It took a lot of dreaming for me to be standing right here, see, because I didn't want to do that.

This thing, it's not a secret. When Barack approached me about running, my first reaction was, "No, hmm, no, not a good idea."

AXELROD: Well, I think it's fair to say Michelle was a reluctant conscript to politics, and she was concerned about the impact on the family, and there was a lot of discussion about what the demands would be on her, what was expected of the children, what it would be like to have a member of the family running for president.

KAYE: Despite her disinclination, Michelle Obama would turn out to be the rock behind the man many called a rock star candidate.

B. OBAMA: And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama.

KANTOR: When this tall, black woman entered these Iowa living rooms early in the campaign, people took to her instantly. That Michelle Obama spark was right there. On the other hand, she also became criticized pretty early on. She was kind of winging it on the campaign trail.

JONES: She just threw the rule book out, she's like, "I'm going to be me."

DAVIS: She wasn't Mrs. Obama. She was Michelle Obama.

KAYE: In 2007, Michelle Obama didn't mince words on the trail, saying this about her husband.

M. OBAMA: He still has trouble putting the bread up and putting his socks actually in the dirty clothes, and he still doesn't do a better job than our 5-year-old daughter Sasha at making his bed. So you have to forgive me if I'm little stunned by this whole Barack Obama thing.

B. OBAMA: Thank you all. I love you.

COKIE ROBERTS, POLITICAL ANALYST: When people are acting like her husband is some sort of political messiah, she knew that wasn't true. By and large, women totally loved it, because we all talk like that. We all make jokes about our husbands, and it is so familiar and comfortable that she could warm up a crowd easily, by making those kinds of jokes.

KAYE: That same year, Mrs. Obama told Glamour Magazine that the daughters don't want to climb into their parents' bed because their dad is "too snore-y and stinky."

MARTON: I loved hearing her little put downs in her assess and saying that, you know, he was -- in the morning, he wasn't at his very best. And -- you know, it was humanizing.

KAYE: Still, Michelle Obama was lampooned and accused of being an angry black woman. She was targeted with racist attacks after comments she made in Wisconsin.

M. OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.

[21:30:03] AXELROD: Those kinds of moments gave you a heartburn. By the same token, it became clear to me very quickly that we had failed her, because we threw her out there without adequate staffing, without adequate preparation.

KANTOR: She was so afraid that she had hurt her husband's candidacy. So she actually took herself off the campaign trail for a while in 2008.

AXELROD: She didn't like being thrown into situations where things might go wrong for reasons she couldn't anticipate.

KAYE: Critics questioned her patriotism, called her uppity, and there were nasty racial slurs. All of it hurt.

So back on the trail, Mrs. Obama began choosing her words more carefully.

M. OBAMA: What I vowed is that I want to be as me as I can be.

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: But certainly you've had to bite your tongue for sure.

M. OBAMA: Well, yeah, because, you know, we have a habit of just characterizing people. You know, it's just sort of easy to define Michelle Obama as the feisty, sarcastic, then you become that caricature.

KANTOR: She goes from being this kind of dazzlingly honest, event blunt, lawyer making original, interesting arguments. She kind of edits herself back to being, you know, the mom-in-chief, this tamer, more familiar role.

DAVIS: I think Michelle Obama's biggest flaw in the beginning was to be an individual.


CROWD: Fired up.


CROWD: Ready to go.

KAYE: Feeding off fear some had of the Obamas, "The New Yorker" magazine published this satirical portrayal of Mrs. Obama as an angry militant, sporting an afro and fatigues and carrying a machine gun. She was fist bumping Mr. Obama who was wearing a turban.

M. OBAMA: You might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a terrorist fist jab. And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of uppity-ism. Another noted that I was one of my husband's cronies of color. Cable news charmingly referred to me as "Obama's Baby Mama."

DAVIS: She was a direct attack on a power structure that everyone's been very comfortable with for a very long time. And so, you must be militant if you are an independent black woman. You must be a radical if you went to Princeton.

KAYE: Not one to be easily discouraged, Michelle Obama found a way to rise above it.

M. OBAMA: I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me --


M. OBAMA: -- there was only one thing I could do.


M. OBAMA: And that was to have faith in God's plans for me. I have to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself, and the rest would work itself out. I had to answer some basic questions for myself. Who am I? No, really, who am I? What do I care about?

KAYE: And that attitude is what helped guide the first lady forward.

JONES: That same strength that kind of shocked people and even scared some people, people became infatuated with, and they became in love with. And they said, "You know what, this is cool, to have like a home girl who's like the first lady." She's like the first home girl lady. Like, this is awesome.

KAYE: First lady and fashion icon. Michelle Obama's style sets trends around world.

DAVIS: Michelle Obama gave a lot of women permission to be who they say they are. And if today you are a woman that wears a cardigan and tomorrow you're a woman that wears a sheath dress, you are allowed. The first lady said so.


[21:38:20] KAYE: From "Glamour" to "InStyle", to "Vogue", first lady Michelle Obama graced the covers of them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is big. This is history. She's not afraid of clothes. She's not afraid of strong color. She's not afraid of silhouettes.

KAYE: Long before she became the fashion icon she is today, Mrs. Obama favored J.Crew.

JAY LENO, HOST OF "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Now, I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I'm guessing about 60 grand?


LENO: Sixty, 70,000 for that outfit?

M. OBAMA: Actually, this is a J.Crew ensemble.

LENO: Really? Wow.

M. OBAMA: Thank you.

ROBIN GIVHAN, FASHION CRITIC, WASHINGTON POST: It felt like, yeah, that's what working mom from Chicago would do. I mean, it was sort of every woman in her style. But I think she sort of moved away from that a little bit as the years progressed.

M. OBAMA: It's hard, you know? I'm kind of a tomboy jock at heart, but I like to look nice.

DAVIS: She represented this diversity of voices from J.Crew to Jason Wu.

KAYE: Jason Wu designed the one shouldered ivory chiffon dress Mrs. Obama wore to the first inaugural ball.

DAVIS: We all were like, "Look at the first lady." Like it was exciting. It was real. That's our first lady. Look at her.

M. OBAMA: I'll never forget the moment that I slipped on this beautiful gown. I remember how just luscious I felt as the President and I were announced onto the stage for the first of many dances.

[21:40:08] KAYE: Earlier, Mrs. Obama walked the Inauguration Day Parade route in this lime green dress from Cuban-American designer, Isabel Toledo.

DAVIS: That was her first runway, and she chose to wear a woman of color in couture when you knew everyone was sending dresses, from Calvin Klein to Donna Karan, to Carolina Herrera. You know --

KAYE: So what can you say about that?

DAVIS: It says that she has agencies. That dress said in no uncertain term that I say how I present myself, that this is my choice.

GIVHAN: She wasn't going to the fully-vetted design houses that people knew and was sort of already approved.

KAYE: Designers Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo had come to the United States as immigrant children. They were among a small group of little known young designers Michelle Obama propelled to fashion stardom.

Later, Mrs. Obama also turned to more well-known designers, wearing this Donatella Versace dress made of rose gold chainmail to her final state dinner. GIVHAN: It's a very sexy dress and it's quintessentially Versace as well just because of the material and sort of the slink of it. It was sort of jokingly referred to as sort of a drop the mic dress.

KAYE: The first lady had worn a Tracy Reese dress to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. But her gray nail polish made the biggest splash.

GIVHAN: The nail polish that launched a thousand -- million manicures.

KAYE: And when Michelle Obama got bangs, it blew up.

B. OBAMA: Now first of all, I love Michelle Obama. And to address the most significant event of this weekend, I love her bangs. She looks good. She always looks good.

GIVHAN: And then the amount of attention those bangs received. I think the President even joked that the bangs were like a two-day news story.

M. OBAMA: All right.

KAYE: Her fashion sense only emphasized her focus on health and fitness. This time, her own.

DAVIS: We see these big, long, brown elegant arms that look like they can hold things. They can hold two girls. They can hold this White House. They can hold this man. And you can't deny it. Seeing her arms was the ability to see that she can be both strong and graceful.

Michelle's commitment to fitness was pretty powerful.

KAYE: She really --

DAVIS: Yeah.

KAYE: -- showed her body.

DAVIS: She showed her body.

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST OF "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": How many pushups can you do? Because I like to do a pushup.

M. OBAMA: You know, I don't know. You know, I can do some. Can you?

DEGENERES: I can do some. I was just wondering if you could do more pushups than I could do.

KAYE: By the time Mrs. Obama turned 50 in the White House, she had cemented her role as an ultra-fit, fashion icon, an inspiration to women everywhere.

DAVIS: I think all of American women were like, "Oh, OK. Let me step my game up, you know?" Like this is what it can look like. KAYE: She exuded confidence. Style watchers and fashion magazines labeled her sexy, but there was something deeper behind her style choices.

KANTOR: She felt a responsibility, first of all, to show that you do not have to be blond and blue-eyed and a size four to be gorgeous.

DAVIS: She was extremely conscious of the negative stereotypes of African-American women. You know, the narrative around what do black girls look like, Michelle cracked that wide open. She's black (inaudible). It's important because not only were brown women not so gorgeous, that women who were clearly identifiably black were not considered beautiful. Something healed with particularly black women who have never been the ones that were held up to be the most beautiful, never the ones that were leading women in Hollywood, never the ones that were on covers of magazines.

JONES: She's a total package. She hits every checkmark. She's smart, she's funny, she's real, she's beautiful.

KAYE: And she's bold. The woman who had relished the role of mom-in- chief was ready to go back on the campaign trail and make her political voice heard.

[21:45:03] KANTOR: It was really a sign of a first lady who finally felt confident to say exactly what was on her mind and to issue a kind of critique that we have not heard from her in a long time.

KAYE: A move that would cement her legacy.

M. OBAMA: 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.


M. OBAMA: I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters, that we are all created equal, each a beloved part of the great American story. And when 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.

[21:50:04] JONES: Michelle Obama has become probably the most effective communicator on earth. When she gives a speech, it's breathtaking. She does stuff on the microphone I didn't know you could do.

KAYE: By 2016, Michelle Obama had stopped watching her words, and in doing so, made her voice heard.

M. OBAMA: They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than optimism and openness. KANTOR: What you see later in the presidency is her being kind of honest about her views in a big new ambitious way. It had the feeling of Michelle Obama saying in public what she said in private which I think was not always true.

JONES: She plugged into something so deep and so transformative for her that it became transformative for millions of Americans.

KAYE: Her passion was her platform. She spoke openly about civil rights and issues of racism.

M. OBAMA: No longer can we be barred from a university or hotel or arrested for sitting at the front of the bus or forced to use a separate bathroom or water fountain because of the color of our skin.

JONES: It shows a level of courage. If you're an African-American person in public life, a lot of people tell you, "Lay off on the black stuff, you make people uncomfortable. Don't talk about civil rights. Don't mention slavery. Put that behind you. Let's look forward."

M. OBAMA: And most people say, "OK, you're right.

JONES: She said, yeah (ph).

M. OBAMA: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I've watched my daughters, two beautiful intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.

KANTOR: She really tried to send a message of opportunity, not just for African-Americans but for people of all different backgrounds. I think she wanted to stand for the idea that, you know, any woman in this country can grow up to be First Lady of the United States.

M. OBAMA: There is no boy at this age that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. Look, if I had to worry about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn't be married to the President of the United States.

I had people who told me that I was reaching too high, that the schools I was applying to were too much for me.

And what you have to remember is that you are competent and capable and able to do it.

DAVIS: I think Michelle Obama was more than hope, she was proof. We believe now, we believe it's possible.

MARTON: She became a role model for women worldwide.

KAYE: She made headlines around the world for this impassioned speech delivered, after then nominee, Donald Trump, was heard on tape bragging about groping women.

M. OBAMA: And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. This wasn't just locker room banter. This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It's intolerable.

DAVIS: She was the most profound feminist without being labeled that because she stood up for girls and she stood up for women when they were being bullied from the most powerful platform in the world.

MARTON: She spoke for so many women when she said, "I feel this in my core. This is unacceptable." She didn't mince words. She wasn't politically correct. She spoke with genuine passion and outrage.

M. OBAMA: Because remember this, when they go low, we go --

CROWD: High.

M. OBAMA: Yes we do.

[21:54:59] DAVIS: Michelle Obama slayed the dragon for girls and for women, forever. And that's what you felt like your mom had come to school and gotten the bully and said, you know, "Not my girls." The voice that she gave to women and girls, that's her legacy.

KANTOR: If you're really looking at Michelle Obama's legacy, the thing that rises to the top, because it is so powerful, is what it meant for everybody and also for African-Americans to see her as first lady, that she could articulate that and that she could use it to spread a message of opportunity and empowerment for people. It was so powerful.

JONES: You have a whole generation of young girls around the world who saw a beautiful strong black woman in the White House doing great and helping everybody. And that is going to ripple out for generations. The critics, the haters, you know, they'll be long- forgotten. Michelle Obama will never be forgotten.

B. OBAMA: What's the secret to still dancing at 106?


M. OBAMA: We are happy to have you.

MCLAURIN: A black president.

M. OBAMA: Look at him, hey, right there.

MCLAURIN: A black wife.

M. OBAMA: That's me.

MARTIN: I think her legacy will be number one that she was the first African-American first lady. That is a huge and historic legacy.

But beyond that, she leaves the White House as the strongest voice for women's rights, for women's dignity, a right that goes beyond race and is fundamental to our society. AXELROD: In another way, her legacy will be the dignity with which she fulfilled her obligations as first lady and the example that she set as someone who lived in that rarefied air and yet was very much a normal mom with the same concerns, looking after her kids, looking after the family, and holding it together against all the pressures associated with the presidency.

KAYE: Also part of her legacy, the first lady's fight to end childhood obesity.

JONES: She did such a huge service for parents and for kids, and it had a huge impact.

MARTIN: I think that more is expected from her now because she has revealed that she has this gift, that she's a natural leader, she's an authentic voice, and an inspiration to women all over the world.

AXELROD: There is no chance that Michelle Obama will ever run for public office.

M. OBAMA: I will not run for president. No, no. I'm not going to do it.

AXELROD: I think that when she leaves, she'll leave with great appreciation for the opportunities that this provided but also with an eagerness to reclaim at least part of her life and her family's life that was sacrificed in service of this presidency.

M. OBAMA: I want to walk down a street. I want to sit in a yard that is not a national park. You know, I do want to, you know, drop in to target.

JONES: It's hard to imagine any first lady having a bigger legacy than Michelle Obama. You know, if she was Beyonce before Beyonce, I mean, she's like -- I mean Beyonce says she's cool. She's unbelievable. And she's going to be missed. She's going to be missed.

B. OBAMA: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side, you made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. So you have made me proud and you have made the country proud.

M. OBAMA: I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I've made you proud.