“The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for president of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning…. 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.”
On Thursday during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the audience, talking about the recent scandals and allegations that have engulfed Donald Trump’s candidacy. The first lady started by mentioning how she celebrated the International Day of the Girl and Let Girls Learn, and it how it was a wonderful celebration, it being the last event that she will be doing as first lady for Let Girls Learn. She acknowledged the sadness many women have felt over the past few days. “I think we can all agree this has been a rough week, in an already rough election,” she said. She then went on to deliver the most powerful and moving speech of this entire presidential race.
Her masterful command over the spoken word, the importance of the issue, combined with the urgency of the election’s final sprint, resulted in one of the most powerful speeches yet delivered by any candidate or surrogate in this campaign. She opened with a very relatable appeal, still appearing to be awed somewhat by where she is, drawing the audience in by talking to them like friends, “Let me just say, hello everyone!” Obama said in an almost childish voice, and then “that’s very sweet of you, I love you, too!” No hint of a speechwriter or a script.
Without ever mentioning the Republican candidate’s name—she mostly referred to him as “candidate” or “Hillary’s opponent”—Obama told the audience how the Trump recordings had shaken her to her core: “A candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women and I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this.” She perfectly explained why his language has affected so many women on a personal level: “The shameful comments about our bodies, the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect, the belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.”
I personally think she said everything we all were waiting to hear. Hear that it high time to realize that this election is not a joke . It is imperative to realize that voting for a man like Donald Trump, who has a record of mistreating women for a major part- maybe even his entire- adult life, is and would be a terrible mistake.
By casting her own experience as similar to others’, Obama made herself relatable and accessible, even if she has, in fact, experienced worse slights and body shaming than many women ever do, “Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet, because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his.”
Obama provided a stark reminder of the fact that the ability to move people using just words comes not from a book, it comes from the gut. With inclusive and personal stories, emotionally strong yet vulnerable tone and body language, and a passionate appeal rooted in her own experiences, Obama embodied the widely praised but rarely replicated feat of seeming “real” that escapes so many leaders.
Another big highlight was the First Lady going on to describe the widespread damaging effects of misogyny, not just on women and girls, but also on men. “To dismiss this as everyday locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere,” she said. “They are husbands and brothers and sons who don’t tolerate women being treated and demeaned and disrespected. And, like us, these men are worried about the impact this election is having on our boys who are looking for role models for what it means to be a man.”
“Michelle Obama’s epic speech Tuesday in New Hampshire should be required viewing for every leader. Not because of its political content. Not for her strongly worded endorsement of Hillary Clinton or her scathing takedown of the Democratic nominee’s ‘opponent’. Rather, it was for the absolute master class she offered in that elusive quality of leadership: “authenticity.” It is among the most jargon-laden, vague concepts touted by leadership consultants and coaches, the subject of countless books and training seminars promising yet another elixir to effective speech-making or good leadership”.- Washington Post
The First Lady herself clarified why this year’s election is so important: “In our hearts, we all know that if we let Hillary’s opponent win this election, then we are sending a clear message to our kids that everything they are seeing and hearing is perfectly okay. We are validating it. We are endorsing it. We are telling our sons that it’s okay to humiliate women. We are telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated. We are telling all our kids that bigotry and bullying are perfectly acceptable in the leader of their country.”
“Obama has no doubt worked to carefully nurture a relatable image for herself, one of a woman who mixes high and low fashion, who can poke fun at mom dancing, who just wants to shop at Target. But she has also endured scorching criticism from the right about her body and her initiatives that offer real fuel for the fiery passion she displayed on Thursday. As Obama showed, personal stories, a natural delivery and raw emotion can help leaders get at that amorphous quality of ‘authenticity.’ But it must also come from the gut.” – Washington Post
Obama made another point, a point that — without her explicitly stating it — also recognized the role of women of color in making this historic campaign, and the one that preceded it, possible. While our recent groundbreaking Democratic candidates for President have been a black man and a white woman, it’s been women of color who have, and who will most likely, in a few weeks, be responsible for putting them in the Oval Office, as the most reliable members of the Democratic base.
Overall, in this historic year for women in presidential politics, the most unapologetic and powerful feminist speech of the campaign was delivered not by the historic candidate, but by the First Lady of The United States of America.
“We have everything we need to stop this madness. You see, while our mothers and grandmothers were often powerless to change their circumstances, today, we as women have all the power we need to determine the outcome of this election. We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote. And on November 8th, we as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together and declare that enough is enough.”
By Sanjana Singh