Last Thursday, Michelle Obama spoke up, and spoke out. With her voice sometimes quaking during her emotional delivery, the First Lady addressed — head on — the remarks made by Donald Trump about women, leaked eleven days ago by The Washington Post and Access Hollywood. Remarks that she couldn’t even bring herself to repeat, describing his words as too “shocking” and “demeaning” for her to do so.
Launching into what will surely be come to be known as one of the most iconic speeches ever made during a presidential campaign, Obama explained why she felt the need to tear up her usual “stump speech” and go off-script:
“I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States, has bragged about sexually assaulting women. I cannot stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way I could not have predicted. While I would love nothing more to pretend like this isn’t happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to move on to the next thing and pretend like this was all just a bad dream.”
Speaking with a passion that many feel, but few can articulate, Obama went on to tap-into the fear that scores of women, in America and around the world, feel every day as they go about their lives, whether it’s in walking down city streets, or doing a day’s work at their office. Fear that’s incited by the men around them who use their strength and power to degrade and devalue women, solely based on their gender. And she wondered, aloud, if this fear is what can sometimes drive women away from getting political, from being political.
But, Obama, perhaps tapping into her husband’s slogan of “hope” that he campaigned on eight years ago, offered the women in her audience a path forward, a path that entails creating a better future for themselves and for their children.
“We have everything we need to stop this madness,” she said. “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.”
Making ordinary campaign speeches is her job, but last Thursday, Michelle Obama made the choice to make her speech extraordinary. In just twenty-five minutes, she cut to much of the core of the turmoil in the present election – the contempt one presidential candidate is exercising against the other and toward swaths of American citizens at large – and reminded her listeners that they do not have to take Trump’s words lying down. They, like Michelle Obama, can stand up and be heard.
“We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote.”
For this, we chose Michelle Obama as our Speak of the Week.