Michelle Obama sat down for a conversation with Shonda Rhimes at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on Tuesday, where she spoke about female empowerment, ethics in the White House and was ultimately surprised by a video message from her husband celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
Reflecting on Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the former FLOTUS said she admired the respect with which her husband treated his presidential role, according to Variety.
“For the last eight years, we had a standard of ethics, a lot of constraints. What it means to have a commander-in-chief that actually upholds the standards of the White House,” she said. She also encouraged girls and women to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, again, subtly alluding to the current occupant of the White House.
“Don’t waste your seat at the table and if you’re scared to use your voice, then give up your seat to someone who can use it because we can’t afford to waste that opportunity,” Obama said. “I want women to pay attention, because this is what happens when we don’t stand up. We give our seats up to those who are supposed to be there, because of the stereotypes of what power and success is supposed to be.”
Obama also discussed the “imposter syndrome” she’s experienced as well. “I’ve been at so many tables and met so many fools who are imposters, but shame on us if we just let an imposter put us down. When you know what’s right and you don’t say anything, you see wrong happening and you sit quietly, that’s what I want women to challenge to be, to speak up. We don’t get to the right answers without raising our voices.”
The former First Lady also addressed the way children can sense inequalities in society, even if they’re not fully aware of what’s going on.
“The thing we cannot forget is that children know when people don’t believe in them or they’re not being invested in,” she said. “Kids know when things are different for them, when they are being quieted or being treated fairly. It’s sort of a shame on us adults when we treat kids like they don’t know.”
According to Variety, Rhimes asked Obama questions about her time in the White House and how it compares to her life now. Obama said that the last ten years of her life, two four-year presidential terms and two years campaigning, felt like she was being shot out of a cannon without time to stop and think about her own feelings.
She also added her condolences to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, saying that tragedies like this were difficult for her because as the First Lady she wanted to comfort the families but did not always have anything to offer them.
Near the end of the discussion, Rhimes surprised Obama with a video message from her husband thanking her for her constant strength, support, and grace under pressure and also greeting her on their 25th wedding anniversary.
“I had to crash this party because today we have been married for 25 years,” Obama said in the video. “The idea that you would put up with me for a quarter of a century is a remarkable testament to what a saintly, wonderful, patient person you are.”
The former first lady reportedly teared up as her husband praised her “strength, grace, determination and honesty.”
“It’s no wonder that as people got to know you the way that I got to know you, they fell in love,” he added.
The former president also said he appreciated “the fact that you look so good” doing all of this.
“It is truly the best decision that I ever made to be persistent enough in asking you out for a date,” he said.
After the tribute, Mrs. Obama turned to Rhimes and the crowd and joked: “I better get home.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Michelle sent her husband and “best friend” a happy anniversary message on Instagram, sharing a photo from their Chicago wedding on Oct. 3, 1992.
“Happy 25th anniversary @barackobama,” she wrote alongside the shot. “A quarter of a century later, you’re still my best friend & the most extraordinary man I know. I (heart) you.”