Former First Lady Michelle Obama today took aim at the women who voted Donald Trump into the White House, in an address to thousands at a Boston marketing conference.
“As far as I’m concerned, any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” Obama said as the crowd erupted into applause at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. “Everybody’s trying to wonder, ‘Well, what does this mean for Hillary?” No, no, no, what does it mean for us as women? That we look at those two candidates, as women, and many of us said, ‘That guy — he’s better for me. His voice is more true to me.’ Well, to me that just says you don’t like your voice. You like the thing that you’re told to like.”
Obama was the headlining speaker at Inbound, a marketing conference, and she fielded questions by writer Roxane Gay spanning her move into and out of the White House, her two daughters, the book she’s working on — and of course, Trump.
Both Barack and Michelle are writing books — and working on her book has been like therapy, she said.
“It is all about voice. It’s all about us believing in our authentic self,” she said.
Obama said she meets people, especially in politics, who aren’t being themselves.
“Quite frankly, we saw this in this election,” she said, referencing Trump’s female voters.
At one point, Obama spoke directly to women.
“I know you have sat, women who have sat in a classroom, or in a boardroom or around a conference table and watched a man go on and on and on and on, maybe saying something, but a lot of times saying not a lot, but taking up a whole lot of space. We have been socialized to sort of sit there and be quiet,” she said. “We can’t afford to just sit by and let other people run roughshod because we are living that reality right now.”
During the presidential campaign, the first lady was a scathing critic of Trump in the wake of the release of a 2005 video that caught Trump bragging about assaulting women.
“In our hearts we all know that if we let Hillary’s opponent win the election, then we are sending a clear message our kids that everything they’re seeing and hearing is perfectly okay,” she told a New Hampshire campaign crowd weeks before the election. “We are telling our sons that it is okay to humiliate women, telling our daughters that this is how we deserve to be treated, that bigotry and bullying are perfectly acceptable. Is that we want for our children?”
Today, Obama said, she and Barack Obama “want the sitting president to be successful” and they have to “balance” how they respond.
“You can’t just be the talking head,” she said. “Barack is not going to turn into what this president was — just somebody tweeting in the wind and stirring up mess without really knowing what they were talking about.”
Looking back on her husband’s eight-year tenure in the White House, “the bar was always high and with every success the bar just got higher. I’m looking at low bars these days and it’s amazing how low these bars have gotten.”
As for being First Lady, Obama said it was “like being shot out of a cannon while drinking from a fire hydrant with a blindfold and with a spotlight. It’s nuts but it was an honor. One of the things that I’ve learned in the process is that I can really do anything.”
She said people in leadership need to “have the ability to step in other people’s shoes because you can get cynical. You can’t try to lead with fear. It doesn’t work. It’s not healthy.”
Obama said she wanted her role as First Lady to be “substantive. I didn’t want to be a First Lady of slogans or symbolic gestures.”
She said she feels like her office “moved the ball” on nutrition and exercise and hopes she “made an impact on young people understanding that education is key.”
She also reflected on her family’s time in Washington.
The night before her family moved out of the White House, Obama recalled, her two daughters wanted to have a sleepover. “I was like, really? Really? You want to have a house full of kids, the Trumps are coming. We got to get out of here,” she said to laughs and applause.
There was a house full of girls, she said, and tears were flowing the next morning.
“I’m trying to straighten myself up because we have to walk out to the North Portico and greet (the Trumps) and I didn’t want to have tears in my eyes because people would think I was crying for a different reason.”
And today, does she miss being in the White House?
“No,” Obama said emphatically. “No — can’t say I do.”
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