In a super-charged interview, Michelle Obama admitted to Oprah Winfrey that the November presidential election was “painful.” The two most powerful African-American women in the country rarely take the stage together. Winfrey is one of the richest women in the world, with $2.9 billion, and the first lady holds a 66 percent popularity rating. This farewell interview was a poignant goodbye.
Both of the Obamas campaigned for Hillary Clinton. Pundits called Mrs. Obama’s DNC convention speech one of the most moving in the past decade. The current first lady spoke with elegance about her own pain over Clinton’s loss to Winfrey on CBS Monday:
‘You know, this — this past election was challenging for me as a — as a citizen. To watch and experience. It was painful.’
However, Michelle Obama resolved to make the transition for the next White House occupants as smooth as possible:
‘Words matter. [T]he words that we say moving forward, all of us, it matters. Which is one of the reasons why Barack and I are so supportive of this transition. Because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the commander-in-chief. Wasn’t done when my husband took office.’
Winfrey picked up on the first lady’s last words and asked Mrs. Obama to explain them. Obama said:
‘That there were people who did not support his presidency. There were people in Congress. There were leaders in Congress who did not support his presidency, which was not something that was good for the country. It was good for politics, but it wasn’t good for the country. And that wasn’t the right way to approach it.’
Then Michelle Obama talked about some of her own challenges, after Winfrey played a clip of the first lady’s Tuskegee commencement address:
‘ You might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab.’ And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of uppity-ism.’
Then, Winfrey asked Mrs. Obama about being labeled an “angry black woman,” and Obama said:
‘That was one of those things where you think, “Dang, you don’t even know me.” You just sort of feel like, “Wow, where did that come from?” And that’s the first blowback.’
The first lady became philosophical in the interview:
‘You start thinking, “Oh, wow, we’re so afraid of each other.” Color. Wealth. These things that don’t matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another.
‘[I]t’s sad because the thing that least defines us as people is the color of our skin….It’s our values. It’s how we live our lives.’
Then, Obama said she was going to “live my life out loud:”
‘I thought, “OK, well, let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves.” And that’s what I want young people to do: Just live your life. Live it out loud.’
Will the first lady run for president in four years? She said “no,” but in politics, one never knows.
Winfrey’s farewell interview with Michelle Obama re-airs Wednesday on OWN at 9 p.m. ET. Watch a clip of the interview below: