The Most Powerful Quotes From Michelle Obama’s DNC Keynote Speech

Supermajority Education Fund

August 18, 2020

Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention Monday night. In her 18-minute-long speech, Obama spoke to Americans as a former first lady who is concerned about the current state of our nation. And in true Michelle Obama fashion, she avoided calling Donald Trump names and instead critiqued his job performance. 

Obama spoke from experience when she said that the job of president needs to go to someone who has “clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen.” She also outlined all the ways Americans should be proactive to be sure their votes are counted this year (request your mail-in ballot now, follow up to be sure it was received, and pack a dinner or breakfast to wait in line at the polls), highlighted the importance of the presidency, and gave us all some hope.

Here are a few of her best quotes from last night. 

“I’ve heard your stories, and through you, I’ve seen this country’s promise. And thanks to so many who came before me, thanks to their toil and sweat and blood, I’ve been able to live that promise myself. That’s the story of America….And who we choose as our president in this election will determine whether or not we honor that struggle and chip away at that injustice and keep alive the very possibility of finishing that work.”

“The job [of president] is hard. … A president’s words have the power to move markets. They can start wars or broker peace. They can summon our better angels or awaken our worst instincts. You simply cannot fake your way through this job. As I’ve said before: Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a presidential election can reveal who we are, too.”

“The state of this nation is very different [than during Obama’s presidency]. More than 150,000 people have died, and our economy is in shambles because of a virus that this president downplayed for too long…And here at home, as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office.”

“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.”

“Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, ‘When others are going so low, does going high really still work?’ My answer: ‘Going high is the only thing that works. Because when we go low, we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else.”

“Going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: The cold hard truth.”

“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.”

“We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a Black woman speaking at the Democratic Convention, but enough of you know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling. You know I hate politics, but you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children.” 

“So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.” 

“Right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They’re closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods, they’re purging voter rolls, they’re sending people out to intimidate voters, and they’re lying about the security of our ballots. These tactics are not new, 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 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.”

“Echoing heroes like John Lewis, who said, ‘When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.’ That is the truest form of empathy. Not just feeling, but doing. Not just for ourselves, or our kids but for everyone. For all our kids.”