The most valuable lesson I learned about speechwriting from my former boss, first lady Michelle Obama, is this: Say something true.

The first, most foundational question any speaker should ask is not, “What will make me sound smart, or witty, or powerful?” or “What does the audience want to hear?”

It is: “What is the deepest, most important truth I can tell at this particular moment?” From her frank comments on race and gender over the years, to her remarks on the campaign trail last fall, every speech Michelle Obama gave was her answer to that question—and audiences appreciated it. Amid the bland, calculated language that has become the dialect of modern politics (“We need to support hardworking middle-class American family values!”), genuine words stand out and have a special kind of power to move and inspire.

Michelle Obama, President Obama, African American Politics, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMNPhoto | Olivier Douliery /ABACAUSA.COM

Michelle Obama, President Obama, African American Politics, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Michelle Obama was the 44th first lady of the United States and wife of U.S. President Barack Obama. Prior to her role as first lady, she was a lawyer, Chicago city administrator and community-outreach worker.

Michelle Obama was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985, and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. Following her graduation from Harvard, she worked at a Chicago law firm, where she met her husband, future U.S. president Barack Obama. The couple married on October 3, 1992. As first lady, she focused her attention on current social issues, such as poverty, healthy living and education. (

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