Former First Lady and current best-selling book author Michelle Obama sat down with Stephen Colbert for a lengthy interview on The Late Show Friday. When we say lengthy, we mean for sure longer than your standard television show interview. But there was a lot to talk about, including “the current occupant of the Oval Office,” as Colbert mentioned of President Trump.
“When you’re the first of anything, the bar feels higher. You don’t have room to make mistakes,” she said of being the first black First Family. “One of the things I don’t talk about in the new book, but I talk about on the road is that I do remember that at the end of that last flight we took out when I was leaving from the Capitol, we waved and got on Air Force One for the last time, I forgot about this ’cause I didn’t put it in the book, but a friend of mine reminded me that I cried for about 30 minutes.”
Obama explained the moment “was just the release of eight years of feeling like we had to do everything perfectly, that there wasn’t a margin of error, that we couldn’t make mistakes, that we couldn’t slip, that our tone had to be perfect.”
“That was the bar that was set for us,” she said, “but it was also the bar that we always set for ourselves, thinking that as the first, people will measure every one of our race, of our gender by what we do. And there is pressure that comes with that so that’s how we carried ourselves. And that had to trickled down to all of our staff. So the pressure was on everyone.”
“You know my next question,” Colbert asked. Everyone in the audience knew Colbert’s next question, which was about an “indifferent” Trump to the moral responsibility that comes with the presidency.
Obama said she’s been “very clear” about her position, citing her 2016 convention speech where she reiterated her famous “when they go low, we go high” quote.
She also addressed Trump in Becoming, noting how she would “never forgive” the current president for championing the birther movement. “The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed,” she wrote.
In another part, she wrote, “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”
To Colbert, she said, “The question that we have to ask ourselves is, how does the country feel about it? Because I don’t think it matters how I feel about it. I felt torn about it from the day I watched it happen, but now the country has to ask itself, what do we want? What is the bar we are setting for ourselves? It doesn’t matter what you or I think at this point. It’s up to voters now to figure out, what kind of moral leadership do we demand in the White House?”
“Regardless of party, regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of where you are, what do we want our president to look like?” she continued. “How do you want them to act? And if we vote for one set of behavior, then that’s obviously what we want — until we vote differently.”