-- Michelle Obama delivered her final official remarks as first lady today, urging young Americans in an emotional speech to "lead by example" and to remain "hopeful."
"We're almost at the end," Obama began, speaking at an event that recognized the 2017 school counselor of the year. "May I say for the last time officially, welcome to the White House!"
But it did not take long for the first lady to become overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment and the reality that her time in the White House was quickly coming to an end.
"If your family doesn't have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little," she said. "But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible, even becoming president. That's what the American dream is all about."
"This country belongs to you, to all of you, from every background and walk of life," Obama said. "Our glorious diversity, our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are. It makes us who we are."
She added that "the power of hope" was the message her family believed in over the past eight years.
"Something better is always possible if you're willing to work for it and fight for it," she proclaimed. "That's my final message to young people as first lady. It is simple."
While Obama is expected to remain publicly engaged on several issues close to her heart, she has ruled out running for elected office.
"Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered," she said. "Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life."
The first lady choked back tears as she signed off.
"Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I've made you proud," she said, drawing a raucous standing ovation.