Michelle Obama delivered her final remarks as first lady.
Dressed in a red dress and gold teardrop earrings, FLOTUS took the podium at the White House on Friday at an event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year as part of her "Reach Higher" initiative that promotes higher education. As expected, Obama's last speech was emotional, powerful and inspiring.
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Obama began her presentation by thanking her staff and joking that she rolls "pretty deep." She also called out the handful of celebrity guests in the audience, which included Jay Pharaoh, Ted Allen, Connie Britton, Kelly Rowland, La La Anthony, Andy Cohen, Usher, Wale and Allison Williams.
"All of these folks are here because they're using their star power to inspire our young people, and I am so grateful to all of you for stepping up in so many ways, on so many occasions," FLOTUS gushed. "So thank you all so much. It really means the world to this initiative."
Obama then noted that over the course of her eight years as first lady, she had one goal in mind -- "to make higher education cool." She did that by "flipping the script" and "shining a bright light" on education, and making it easier for students to apply for financial aid.
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"All together we made, in this administration, the largest investment in higher education since the GI Bill," she explained, calling school counselors the "heroes" of this story. "And today the high school graduation rate is at a record high and more young people than ever before are going to college."
Obama then went on to say that as she ends her time in the White House, she couldn't think of any better way to do so than by sending a message to the younger generation.
"For all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you," she said. "To all of you. From every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition. The infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas … that has made us the greatest country on Earth."
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"If your family doesn't have much money," she continued, "I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband -- we started out with very little -- but with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible, even becoming president. That's what the American Dream is all about."
Obama also encouraged young people not to "let anyone make you feel like you don't matter, or like you don't have a place in our American story."
"And when you encounter obstacles -- because I guarantee you will, and many of you already have -- when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago," she exclaimed. "Something that has carried us through every moment in this White House, and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope. The belief that something better is always possible if you're willing to work for it and fight for it."
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"It is our fundamental belief and the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country," she added. "Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe, they too will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves."
"So, that's my final message to young people as first lady," she continued, holding back tears. "It is simple."
Obama concluded her speech by telling the audience she wants our young people to know that they matter and that they "belong."
"Don't be afraid, do you hear me?" she advised. "Young people, don't be afraid. Be focused, be determined, be hopeful, be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education. Then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life."
"I want to close today by simply saying thank you," Obama said. "Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life and I hope I've made you proud."
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