In the years since Michelle Obama first uttered her now-famous catchphrase, “When they go low, we go high,” during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she says people always ask her if the strategy still works today.
Her response: It’s “the only thing that works.”
During Obama’s keynote speech during Monday night’s Democratic National Convention, the former first lady said that by going low and using tactics like “degrading and dehumanizing” others, “we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else.”
“We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight,” Obama said Monday.
But Obama made it clear that “going high” doesn’t mean overlooking the negativity. “[It] does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty,” she said.
Instead, going high means “taking the harder path” — a path she describes as “standing fierce against hatred.”
“[G]oing high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth,” she said.
Obama did not mention President Donald Trump by name, but presumably she was alluding to Trump and his presidency. (She closed her speech by saying the truth is that Trump is the wrong president for America.)
And after Obama’s speech, Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be president if it wasn’t for the work of her husband, Barack Obama and Biden.
On Feb. 8, Obama told Oprah Winfrey during Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour that most people resort to “going low” because its “easy.”
“It’s easy to go low. It’s easy to lead by fear. It’s easy to be divisive. It’s easy to make people feel afraid,” Obama said.
It’s also short-sighted, she said.
“For me, what I learned from my husband, what I learned from eight years in the White House, this life, this world, our responsibility in it is so much bigger than us. When I want to go low, it’s all about my own ego. It’s not about solving anything…. It’s about seeking revenge on the thing that happened to you.”
Instead Obama has learned to think about the “bigger purpose” before making a decision on how to respond to something.
If her words are not fixing a problem or at least moving the needle in the right direction, she knows that she’s not going high enough.