Last night, my Facebook feed was basically one giant lovefest for Michelle Obama.
Her speech at the virtual Democratic National Convention demonstrated the kind of poise, honesty, and leadership that so many of us have been aching for the past few years.
For almost 19 minutes, Obama spoke about two powerful values that we need to fight for and protect daily, but most especially this election year: democracy and empathy. I spent most of this speech teary-eyed and yelling “F*ck yes” to no one in particular from my couch.
Here are six powerful quotes that have stayed with me:
1. “Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’ It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.
And like so many of you, Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.”
2. “Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation. A nation that’s underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character. And that’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating, because I know the goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation.”
3. “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.
And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.”
4. “When he was a kid, Joe’s father lost his job. When he was a young senator, Joe lost his wife and his baby daughter. And when he was vice president, he lost his beloved son. So Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own.
His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.
Joe is not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president. And his ability to learn and grow—we find in that the kind of humility and maturity that so many of us yearn for right now. Because Joe Biden has served this nation his entire life without ever losing sight of who he is; but more than that, he has never lost sight of who we are, all of us.”
5. “But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning. We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012. We’ve got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow-up to make sure they’re received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.
We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.”
6. “So many of you are already going that extra mile. Even when you’re exhausted, you’re mustering up unimaginable courage to put on those scrubs and give our loved ones a fighting chance. Even when you’re anxious, you’re delivering those packages, stocking those shelves, and doing all that essential work so that all of us can keep moving forward.
Even when it all feels so overwhelming, working parents are somehow piecing it all together without child care. Teachers are getting creative so that our kids can still learn and grow. Our young people are desperately fighting to pursue their dreams.
And when the horrors of systemic racism shook our country and our consciences, millions of Americans of every age, every background rose up to march for each other, crying out for justice and progress.
This is who we still are: compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.”
And of course, this quote—which perfectly describes what is going through the hearts and minds of millions of Americans on a daily basis:
“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
For the full transcript of Obama’s speech, head here.
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