The first lady shares a bit of advice for young girls everywhere.
It's not every day that two of the world's most powerful women sit down for a heart-to-heart chat about life.
But that's exactly what happened in a recent interview between Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey (numbers 13 and 21, respectively, on the Forbes list of powerful women, in case you were wondering).
The wide-ranging interview tackled everything from the first lady's thoughts on the importance of ensuring a peaceful transition of power to her thoughts on what her husband's lasting legacy might be.
In perhaps the most important portion of the interview, she discussed what it's like being on the receiving end of sometimes unfair criticism.
On Election Day, the New York Times Styles section tweeted "How [Michelle Obama] shed an angry black woman caricature and evolved into a political powerhouse." In 2012, the New York Post ran a headline reading, "Mad as Hell Michelle" on the front page. That line of criticism is bizarre not only because it's harsh, but also because it appears completely divorced from the reality of who Michelle Obama has shown herself to be as a public figure.
Asked about what it felt like to so frequently have the "angry black woman" stereotype projected onto her by her critics, Obama opened up about coping with that negativity and using it to fuel her work moving forward.
"That was one of those things where you think, 'Dang, you don’t even know me,'" she said. "You just sort of feel like, 'Wow, where did that come from?' And that’s the first blowback."
That criticism sparked something within her. She wasn't going to let someone else define her. Instead, she was going to live out loud.
Obama rattled off a list of things she's proud of and shared why it's important to speak up.
"We as women, we as minorities," she told Oprah, "We underestimate ourselves. ... I want young girls out there to understand that what’s in your brain is really useful. Do not hide it, don’t dumb it down, don’t apologize for it. Just put it on the table and let people deal with it."
The whole interview makes so many great points, but most of all, it's a reminder that Michelle Obama, just like you or me, is a human being with feelings, ambition, and dreams.
People talk a lot about whether spouses and relatives of politicians are "fair game" for criticism, but perhaps we need to look at that question with a bit more nuance. The issue shouldn't be whether Michelle Obama or Melania Trump or Laura Bush or any of their children should be exempt from any and all criticism — no one is. The issue should be one of whether such criticism is accurate, justified, and humane.
Flinging baseless insults and dehumanizing someone, even if they're a political opponent, doesn't add anything to discourse. Instead, it creates hate and resentment, and ultimately serves as a distraction from who we want to be as people and as a country.
As first lady, Michelle Obama was dealt a lot of low blows. But as she says, "When they go low, we go high."
That's her approach to offering help and advice to Melania Trump. It's something that can be incorporated into our own lives, as well.