40 Michelle Obama Quotes About Finding Your Voice and Achieving Your Goals

michelle obama walking on stage

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Deanna deBara
Deanna deBara
July 19, 2024 at 8:24AM UTC

When it comes to inspirational leaders, few hold a candle to former First Lady Michelle Obama.

She has been a major voice for women’s empowerment before, during, and after her time in the White House. Whether it's encouraging women to step into their  power, embrace failure, support other women, or define their own version of success, Obama has shared many words of wisdom over the years—and she has the quotes to prove it.

Let’s take a look at some of Michelle Obama’s most memorable lines: 

Michelle Obama quotes on success

1. “Success isn't about how much money you make; it's about the difference you make in people's lives.” Democratic National Convention, 2012

2. “If you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.” Commencement address at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School, 2016

3. “The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” Democratic National Convention, 2008

4. “Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” G20 Summit, 2009

5. “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” X (formerly known as Twitter), 2017

6. “Success is only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own.” Commencement address at Oregon State University, 2012

7. “When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” “Becoming”

Michelle Obama quotes on overcoming adversity

8. “You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have.” Young African Women Leaders Forum, 2011

9. “And when you encounter obstacles—because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have—when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something…the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.” National School Counselor of the Year event, 2017

10. “Instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. Let them make you even hungrier to succeed.” Commencement address at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School, 2016

11. “Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don't be afraid to fail.” Glamour’s Power of an Educated Girl event, 2015

12. “Through my education, I didn’t just develop skills, I didn’t just develop the ability to learn, but I developed confidence.” Glamour’s “A Brighter Future: A Global Conversation on Girls' Education“ event, 2016

13. “If you’re willing to dig deep, if you’re willing to pick yourself up when you fall, if you’re willing to work and work until your weaknesses become your strengths, then you’ll develop a set of skills that you can mold and apply to any situation you encounter, any job you might have, any crisis you might confront.” Commencement address at Eastern Kentucky State University, 2013

14. “Do not be afraid to fail because that oftentimes is the thing that keeps us as women and girls back. Because we think we have to be right. We think we have to be perfect. We think that we can't stumble. And the only way you succeed in life, the only way you learn, is by failing. It's not the failure; it's what you do after you fail.” —Panel for International Day of the Girl, 2016

15. “I want you to understand that every scar that you have is a reminder not just that you got hurt, but that you survived.  And as painful as they are, those holes we all have in our hearts are what truly connect us to each other.” Commencement address at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School, 2016

16. “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” Commencement address at City College in New York, 2016

17. “When they go low, we go high.” Democratic National Convention, 2016

18. “I know we are all up to the task. I know we are. I see it in your eyes. I know you feel that burning sensation, that sense of unfairness. Turn that into action. Turn that passion into something real.” Let Girls Learn Event, 2016

Michelle Obama quotes on finding your voice

19. “If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's the power of using your voice.” “Becoming”

20. “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” “Becoming”

21. “There's power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there's grace in being willing to know and hear others.” —“Becoming”

22. “We only hurt ourselves when we hide our realness away.” —“The Light We Carry”

Michelle Obama quotes on self-love

23. “I believe that each of us carries a bit of inner brightness, something entirely unique and individual. A flame that's worth protecting. When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it. When we learn to foster what's unique in the people around us, we become better able to build compassionate communities and make meaningful change.”  —“The Light We Carry”

24. “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to-do' list.” Vogue, 2016

25. “Many of us, we have a hard time putting ourselves on our own priority list, let alone at the top of it…and that's what happens when it comes to our health as women. We are so busy giving and doing for others that we almost feel guilty to take that time out for ourselves.”  Q+A at Essence Musical Festival, 2019

26. “I've repeated the same words to myself many times now, through many climbs: 'Am I good enough? Yes I am.” “Becoming”

27. “At 54, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be.” “Becoming”

Michelle Obama quotes on connection

28. “Life has shown me that strong friendships are most often the result of strong intentions. Your table needs to be deliberately built, deliberately populated, and deliberately tended to.” “The Light We Carry”

29. “Find people who will make you better.” “Becoming”

30. You have to fill your bucket with positive energy—and if you have people hanging around you that are bringing you down and not lifting you up…you have to learn how to push these people to the side.” Glamour’s Power of an Educated Girl event, 2015

31. “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses… swapped back and forth and over again.” “Becoming”

32. “One light feeds another. One strong family lends strength to more. One engaged community can ignite those around it. This is the power of the light we carry.” “The Light We Carry”

33. “No matter what, you give everybody a fair shake, and when somebody needs a hand, you offer yours.” Commencement address at Eastern Kentucky State University, 2013

More words of wisdom

34. “You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms.” National School Counselor of the Year event, 2017

35. “I want you to be that hungry to get your education…It is going to be the key to your future.” Glamour’s Power of an Educated Girl event, 2015

36. “Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t.” —“Becoming“

37. “Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?” Panel at Howard University, 2016

38. “These are the moments that define us—not the day you get the promotion, not the day you win teacher of the year, but the times that force you to claw and scratch and fight just to get through the day; the moments when you get knocked down and you’re wondering whether it’s even worth it to get back up.  Those are the times when you’ve got to ask yourself, who am I going to be?” —Commencement address at Eastern Kentucky State University, 2013

39. “Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.” Commencement address at Martin Luther King Jr. Preparatory High School, 2016

40. “Be great. Build great lives for yourselves. Enjoy the liberties that you have in this great country.  Pursue your own version of happiness. And please, please, always, always do your part to help others do the same.” Commencement address at City College in New York, 2016

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