Michelle Obama's final speech as first lady was billed as a tribute to Terri Tchorzynski, named the school counselor of the year. She spoke to assembled school guidance counselors from across the country — each state's counselor of the year — about the importance of education, especially providing young people with opportunities for higher education. Youth issues have been at the heart of her work as first lady, from childhood obesity and nutrition in schools to bullying.
But toward the end of her speech, she took an emotional turn.
“I want our young people to know that they matter — that they belong,” she said, her voice starting to shake. “So don't be afraid. Young people, do you hear me? Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education.”
Although first ladies do not have any official power under the Constitution, their proximity to the president means that they always have influence and can serve as advocates for the president's agenda on various issues, as well as advocating on their own for whatever they are passionate about. Incoming first lady Melania Trump, for example, made a speech about online bullying just a few days before Election Day.
Obama went on to say that she would stay involved in youth issues for “the rest of my life” and that she can “think of no better way to end my time as first lady” than by thanking teachers for their work.
And with a round of applause, and a teary-eyed farewell, her last official White House event as first lady came to an end.
Watch the final eight minutes of her speech below.