In an all-encompassing and emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey on Monday, Michelle Obama made it clear that she is leaving the White House for good when her husband’s presidential term ends, settling rumors that she plans to pursue a political career. She said the Democratic Party had not asked her to run for any office, and she will not entertain the notion.
“I don’t make stuff up. I’m not coy. I’ve proven that. I’m pretty direct. If I were interested in it, I’d say it. I don’t believe in playing games. It’s not something I would do,” she told Winfrey. “But it also speaks to the fact that people don’t really understand how hard this is. And it’s not something that you cavalierly just sort of ask a family to do again.”
Obama talked about how her daughters, Sasha, 15, and Malia, 18, grew up in the public eye, and said she wouldn’t want them to have to continue their lives under such scrutiny.
“I wouldn’t do that to my kids,” she said. “Because what people don’t understand is that you run — their lives stop at any age. I mean, the next family that comes in here, every person in that family, every child, every grandchild, their lives will be turned upside down in a way that no American really understands.”
While Obama is leaving the White House after eight years, she pledged to help incoming first lady Melania Trump and her husband, President-elect Donald Trump, adjust to their new surroundings and responsibilities. She said it was a courtesy Laura Bush extended to her.
As for any advice offered to Mrs. Trump during their meeting in November, Obama said it was simply too early. She called the meeting “very pleasant,” but thought Trump probably didn’t know what questions to ask yet.
“You really don’t know what you don’t know until you’re here,” Obama said. “So I — the door is open, as I’ve told her, and as Laura Bush told me, you know, and as other first ladies told me.”
When the conversation turned to Trump’s husband, things did take on a more serious tone. Obama campaigned strongly for Hillary Clinton and said the election “was challenging for me as a citizen to watch and experience, it was painful.”
Her strongest comment, one that was distributed to media early to preview the full interview, drew a reaction from Trump during a rally stop. Playing off her husband’s campaign of hope, Obama said, “Because we feel the difference now. See, now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like. You know? Hope is necessary. It’s a necessary concept.”
One of Obama’s most lasting moments came in the wake of the notorious video of Donald Trump talking disparagingly about women on a bus with Billy Bush. In the now-infamous video, Trump said celebrities can “grab women by the (expletive).”
“My response, you know, in light of what I was seeing from my female staff, what I was hearing from my daughters, their reaction to it, for me required a different kind of response,” she told Winfrey.
Obama said through eight years in the White House, she grew closer to her husband. She said she is eager to regain some anonymity in her life.
Winfrey wrapped up the interview by asking Obama what her prayer was for the country.
“My desire for this country is that we remain hopeful and that — and that we find a place in our hearts to love each other,” she said. “It’s really simple, you know? Just opening up our hearts to others. Making room.”