Seize power and don’t hide scars, former first lady urges audience
In her first public appearance in Colorado since leaving the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama had a message for women: Seize your power and don’t let go.
Seated for an armchair conversation in front of 8,500 people, Obama was relaxed, personable and playful but still serious as she touched on a range of topics — including girls education, health and nutrition, and female empowerment, all things she worked on as first lady — at the Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s 30th anniversary Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.
The predominately female crowd was a mix of young and old. The event’s popularity forced organizers to open up more seats. Obama was greeted by an extended standing ovation and a few calls of “We love you.”
WFCO president and CEO Lauren Casteel commented that Obama broke a glass ceiling by becoming the first black first lady. She then asked which of the falling glass shards cut the deepest.
“The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut,” she said, referencing being called an ape and people talking about her posterior. “Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.”
She said she can’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt because that lets those who do the hurting off the hook.
“Women, we endure those cuts in so many ways that we don’t even notice we’re cut,” she said. “We are living with small tiny cuts, and we are bleeding every single day. And we’re still getting up.”
But Obama said women should own their scars. Referring to failure, she said those wounds hurt deeply but they heal with time. If women own their scars, they can encourage younger girls who are getting their first cuts.
Although Obama largely stayed away from politics, she took a few thinly veiled shots at the current president — receiving cheers from the crowd. She reiterated that she would not be seeking public office, much to the crowd’s dismay. But she said she and Barack Obama intend to stay in public service.
“Not everybody seizes the power. There are people in the room that said, ‘Here you go,’ ” Obama said. “It’s not enough to have movement after the vote because the vote is what it is.”
The Obamas have been on speaking tours after a postpresidency vacation.
Similar to Tuesday’s conversation, Michelle Obama has largely steered clear of politics, focusing instead on topics that she supported as first lady, including education, health and nutrition.
The WFCO event served as a fundraiser for the organization.
Among the speakers were Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, former first lady of Colorado and WFCO cofounder Dottie Lamm, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
WFCO was founded in 1987 to address the “feminization of poverty” as Colorado and areas across the world saw women more likely to live in poverty.