When we showed up at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, this morning to watch Michelle Obama onstage with Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Sophia Bush, and Diane Warren, we expected to bask in the glow of badass women passionate about girls’ education and the Obamas’ new Let Girls Learn campaign. What we didn’t expect to get, though, was FLOTUS’s spontaneous exit speech. Asked by Latifah what she’ll miss most about being in the White House, and if she’ll run for president, the First Lady gave a thank-you to all the young people who’ve inspired her on the job and promised to work for them the rest of her life, just “not as president.”
Why not? “Because I’ve got these two young people at home,” she said. “And being the daughters of the president, just think about it. Come on, young people, it’s not so easy. They handled it with grace and with poise, but — as you said earlier, there are so many ways to impact the world. You don’t have to be president of the United States to do wonderful and marvelous things.”
She is, however, planning on aging like a champ. “You talk about your 30s being good?” she said, turning to Sophia Bush, who’d gone on a reverie about how good it was to be out of her 20s. “Your 50s — wooo! Phenomenal. I plan to go into my 60s blazing. BLAZING! And trying to be as fly and as healthy as I can. Remember that 106-year-old woman, Ms. McLaurin, who was dancing with us? I told her, ‘I want to be just like you! 106 and movin’ and groovin’!’”
Here’s FLOTUS’s entire beautiful, spontaneous exit speech:
Okay, people [laughing, quieting the roar of the crowd after Latifah asks if she’ll run for president]. What will I miss most about being First Lady? You all. The young people — you’re gonna make me cry — that I interact with every day. The young people in this country keep me inspired because I see myself in them. In you all. I see the little girl on the South Side who was told she couldn’t. I see the scared kid. I see the kid with doubts. And I just know that if I can do this and be here — I’ve gone to one of the great colleges, had all these great experiences — you can do it, too. So spending that time with you all, touching you all, laughing with you, just experiencing this journey with our young people of all ages, I’m going to miss that as First Lady, but I’m going to keep doing it for the rest of my life. So it’s you guys.
You can’t be in public life and not love people. It’s a hard thing to do. And there’s some people who do it and they don’t love people. You’ve got to love people. I do. And I’m going to continue to work with young people all over the world. Not as president.
I will not run for president. No, no, not gonna do it. And here’s one of the reasons why: because I’ve got these two young people at home. And being the daughters of the president, just think about it. Come on, young people, it’s not so easy. They handled it with grace and with poise, but — as you said earlier, there are so many ways to impact the world. You don’t have to be president of the United States to do wonderful and marvelous things.
And I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. You talk about your 30s being good? Your 50s — wooo! Phenomenal. I plan to go into my 60s blazing. BLAZING! And trying to be as fly and as healthy as I can. Remember that 106-year-old woman, Ms. McLaurin, who was dancing with us? I told her, “I want to be just like you! 106 and movin’ and groovin’!” So there’s so much that I can do outside of the White House, and sometimes there’s so much more that you can do outside of the White House without the constraints and the lights and the cameras and the partisanship. There’s a potential that my voice could be heard by many people who can’t hear me now because I’m Michelle Obama, the First Lady. And I want to be able to impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way and to try to keep reaching people. And I think I can do that just as well by not being president of the United States. And you all can, too.
And I hope there are some people in the audience who want to be president of the United States because we need you out there. We need good, smart, decent people with strong values and strong morals who want to go into politics. So I would encourage all of you students here to have a life in public service. Even if you want to make money, find a way to help somebody. Find a way to turn your blessings into something powerful that affects the lives of others, because that’s how we keep this country strong. I hope you all will consider public service.
And with that, I will go off into the sunset!
Somewhere, the nation’s First Teens are breathing a deep sigh of relief.