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Most memorable quotes by Michelle Obama

The Obamas spoke at separate events in Singapore, with Michelle sharing her life story and perspectives with the audience.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama reached out personally to the Singapore audience on Dec 14, as she shared her story in an event titled An Evening with Michelle Obama, at the Singapore Expo. Over the years, the 55-year-old has tackled childhood obesity, one of the public health crises in America, encouraged education for girls and championed equal rights ­– all with grace and grit. Today, she’s a role model for girls and women, and her memoir, Becoming, has reached out to even more people with its message of self-acceptance. Here, we recount some of the memorable quotes from her bestselling book, as well as from speeches over the years.

(Related: Barack and Michelle Obama to speak in Singapore in December)


“When you’re First Lady, America shows itself to you in its extremes. I’ve been to fund-raisers in private homes that look more like art museums, houses where people own bathtubs made from gemstones. I’ve visited families who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and were tearful and grateful just to have a working refrigerator and stove. I’ve encountered people I find to be shallow and hypocritical and others – teachers and military spouses and so many more – whose spirits are so deep and strong it’s astonishing. And I’ve met kids – lots of them, all over the world – who crack me up and fill me with hope and who blessedly manage to forget about my title once we start rooting around in the dirt of a garden.” – Becoming


“Our greatness has never, ever come from sitting back and feeling entitled to what we have. It’s never come from folks who climb the ladder of success, or who happen to be born near the top and then pull that ladder up after themselves.  No, our greatness has always come from people who expect nothing and take nothing for granted – folks who work hard for what they have then reach back and help others after them.” – City College of New York commencement, 2016


“Dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization. It’s the ugliest kind of power.” – Becoming


“I’d been raised to be confident and see no limits, to believe I could go after and get absolutely anything I wanted. And I wanted everything. I wanted to live with the hat-tossing, independent-career-woman zest of Mary Tyler Moore, and at the same time I gravitated toward the stabilizing, self-sacrificing, seemingly bland normalcy of being a wife and mother. I wanted to have a work life and a home life, but with some promise that one would never fully squelch the other. I hoped to be exactly like my own mother and at the same time nothing like her at all. It was an odd and confounding thing to ponder. Could I have everything? Would I have everything? I had no idea.” – Becoming


“The one way to get me to work my hardest was to doubt me.” – International Girls Day, 2016


“Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses… swapped back and forth and over again.” – Becoming


“This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think – it can put you on the established path, the ‘My, isn’t that impressive?!’ path – and keep you there for a long time. Maybe it stops you from swerving, from ever even considering a swerve, because what you risk losing in terms of other people’s high regard can feel too costly.” – Becoming


“Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.” – Becoming


“My father, Fraser, taught me to work hard, laugh often, and keep my word. My mother, Marian, showed me how to think for myself and to use my voice. Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, they helped me see the value in our story, in my story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” – Becoming


“The lesson being that in life you control what you can.”– Becoming


“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end.” – Becoming


“You should never, ever be embarrassed by those struggles. You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” – City College of New York commencement, 2016


(Related: Books that Obama and other thought leaders have been reading)


(Photo: Alex Nemo Hanse/Unsplash)