Michelle Obama’s most inspiring quotes on love, equality and freedom

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Helen Bownass
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Michelle Obama.

The former FLOTUS has always had a way with words. As she releases her first memoir, Becoming, we reflect on some of her wisest remarks 

“When people ask how a girl from a working-class family on the South Side of Chicago got to where I am, they think I’m some kind of unicorn,” says Michelle Obama. “Becoming is about the ordinariness of a very extraordinary story.”

At a key moment for US politics, the release of Mrs Obama’s memoir – telling her story from growing up in Chicago to becoming a lawyer and meeting her husband to her eight years at the White House – couldn’t be more timely. Since she’s a woman who knows the power of words, let’s remember some of her finest…

Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 

On bullying

“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. Our motto is: ‘When they go low, we go high’.” (2016)

On education

“Girls know that education is their only path to self-sufficiency. It is their only chance to shape their own fate rather than having the limits of their lives dictated to them by others.” (2016)

On equality

“Let’s be very clear: strong men – men who are truly role models – don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up.” (2016)

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” (2014) 

Michelle Obama with husband Barack and daughters Malia and Sasha at an event in Washington, December 2014

On success

“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” (2012) 

On failure

“Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.” (2015) 

On racism

“The shards that cut me deepest were the ones that intended to cut. Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin colour. Women endure those cuts in so many ways that we don’t even notice we’re cut. We are living with small tiny cuts, and we are bleeding every single day. And we’re still getting up.” (2017) 

Michelle Obama: one of the world’s great “self-includers”

On love

“I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity. Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” (2009)

“Choose people who lift you up. Find people who will make you better.” (2011) 

On courage

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” (2011)

On freedom

“You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms… You need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation.” (2017)

Becoming by Michelle Obama (£25, Viking) is out 13 November. Pre-order it here

Images: Getty Images