Michelle Obama’s Legacy of Kindness

Jimmy Fallon did a tribute to Michelle Obama the other day in which people were supposed to stand in front of a photograph of the First Lady and record a message for her to view at a later date.

Not surprisingly, Mrs. Obama and Mr. Fallon were listening behind a curtain, and then came out to greet each of the participants after they delivered their heartfelt messages. Mrs. Obama gave every one of these people the warmest hug. There were tears galore.

One of the people speaking made the observation that the thread running through all of Mrs. Obama’s speeches was kindness, and that this is the one value he most wants to teach his own children.

Interestingly, when I think about the past eight years with Michelle Obama as First Lady, kindness is exactly the word that comes to mind.

This was a First Lady who, above all, cared about the people in her country — all of the people. Although extremely fashionable, Mrs. Obama was far less interested in wearing couture than in helping her fellow Americans to live their very best lives and to be the very best that they could be.

Both Michelle and Barack Obama have tremendous integrity, compassion and authenticity. It’s obvious to everyone that Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to get people exercising and eating healthy sprang from a sincere concern for the welfare of the people of the United States of America.

Every speech she made, every initiative in support of education, for example Let Girls Learn, and every bit of work she did with Joining Forces to raise awareness and money for US veterans, demonstrated to us all that Mrs. Obama was motivated by a deep and abiding empathy for her fellow Americans and her fellow human beings.

As a mother of two young girls, Michelle Obama exemplified loving-kindness and a powerful concern for their welfare. In rejecting the idea of running for president herself, Mrs. Obama put the needs of her daughters first and foremost, not wanting them to have to deal with the stresses of being the daughters of the president, all over again.

Michelle Obama never used her position to lord it over others. She was more humble than haughty, more elegant than arrogant, more serene than snobbish, and inclusive rather than exclusive. She always wanted to include the American people in the important conversations.

Mrs. Obama was always beautiful and dignified in her role as First lady, but she was also unpretentious, delightfully warm and prone to giving hugs.

She inspired Americans to be more caring and respectful toward one-another, as she never treated anyone with less than the utmost respect. For that reason, she won the love, respect and admiration of her fellow Americans. Many First Ladies are respected and admired, it’s true, but few were as deeply loved as Mrs. Obama has been.

Lately I’ve been writing about the difference between being “nice” and being kind. It’s a simple yet important distinction, as niceness comes out of a need to please others and gain their approval, while kindness comes from an outpouring of the love in someone’s heart.

People who are nice tend to be motivated by insecurity, inadequacy or anxiety within themselves. They need other people to make them feel good about themselves. People who are kind have an open heart. They care about other people and want the best for them.

It’s obvious that Michelle Obama is a genuinely kind, caring person whose loving-kindness overflows from her very full heart.

We’ve all been extremely lucky to have such an uplifting, inspiring and wonderfully kind First Lady of the United States. She’s a role-model, an advocate, an educator and an inspiration to everyone around the world.

In the coming months and years, we should remember Michelle Obama’s legacy of kindness and not allow the negativity, divisiveness and cynicism of the incoming administration to make us forget that love should always be our guiding principle, and kindness should always be our first choice.

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Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series