Michelle Obama spoke bluntly to those hoping she will run for political office, telling an audience in Los Angeles that Americans need to focus more on advocating for themselves than looking for someone else to take on that responsibility.
The former first lady talked with actress Tracee Ellis Ross at the United State Of Women Summit on Saturday, covering a range of topics. Obama didn’t mince words when the discussion turned to politics and a voice from the crowd interrupted to ask why she wouldn’t seek an elected post.
“Stop that,” said Obama, who since her husband’s presidential term ended early last year has frequently said she has no plans to run for anything herself.
She told her audience that society has yet to understand her husband’s famed campaign slogan, “Yes, We Can.” Obama spoke about the need for women to come together as a community before looking to one individual woman to solve their problems, and said in that sense she is no different than Hillary Clinton.
“When I hear people say, ‘You run,’ it’s part of the problem,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do before we’re focused on ‘the who.’ Because we’re ‘the who.’”
“We are the answer,” she continued. “All of us here in the room are the answer to our own problems ― it is not finding the one right person that we think can save us from ourselves. It’s us. It’s us.”
Obama said that the small ways individuals find to support women’s voices within their own circle will have more of an impact than she could have.
“That’s where it starts. Looking for the next person to run, and I don’t mean to cut that off, but that’s been our distraction,” she said. Mentioning that many of her husband’s supporters thought he was going to be the person to “save us,” she noted that “he didn’t end racism.”
She made a veiled reference to President Donald Trump and his defeat of Clinton in 2016, saying, “In light of the last election, I’m concerned about us as women. What is going on in our heads that we let that happen? What are girls dreaming about when the most qualified person running was a woman and look what we did?
Obama also told Ross that women still need to find ways to empower the girls in their lives to have a voice.
“There are still those who aren’t speaking up at their own dinner tables,” she said. “They’re not going to contradict their husbands or their fathers. And we have to figure out, are we doing that? Are we part of that?”