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Michelle Obama isn’t interested in taking over the Oval Office. While speaking at the 39th annual Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston on Thursday, she explained why she isn’t running for president despite pleas from supporters.
“The reason why I don’t want to run for president — and I can’t speak for Oprah [Winfrey] — but my sense is that, first of all, you have to want the job,” Obama said per Today, also referencing prior rumors that Winfrey was going to run in 2020.
She continued, “And you can’t just say, ‘Well, you’re a woman, run.’ We just can’t find the women we like and ask them to do it, because there are millions of women who are inclined and do have the passion for politics.”
The former first lady went on to say that she does not have a passion for politics, despite her role at the White House during husband Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure as the 44th president of the United States.
“I’ve never had the passion for politics,” she said. “I just happened to be married to somebody who has the passion for politics, and he drug me kicking and screaming into the arena.”
For Obama — who, as first lady, advocated for military families and encouraged healthy eating to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity — talk of a potential presidential run began in 2016 after she gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention.
But, according to the Harvard Law School graduate, basing an individual’s political wherewithal on their ability to move an audience is problematic. Winfrey, who has since insisted she has no plans to become president, was also looked at as a potential candidate after she delivered a powerful oration this past January, while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.
“Just because I gave a good speech, I’m smart and intelligent doesn’t mean I should be the next president,” Obama said. “That’s not how we should pick the president. That’s been our problem. We’re very shortsighted about how we think about selecting the commander in chief.”
Her comments came not long after California senator Kamala Harris responded to speculation that she’s considering a presidential bid in 2020. During a Thursday appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Democratic politician and lawyer said that she wouldn’t even address the possibility of running until more “immediate needs” are taken care of.
“These DACA kids, when we talk about where they are in terms of immigration — there are so many pressing issues right now. Guns. We have got to pass an assault weapons ban. We need to have universal background checks,” Harris said. “These are our immediate needs, and these are the things I’m focused on right now.”
Adding, “I’ve seen so many people, Ellen, focus on that thing out there and then trip over this thing here. I don’t want to trip. There’s so much that’s important right now.”
During her Thursday appearance in Boston, Obama — who vocally supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election — compared her husband’s time in the White House to President Donald Trump’s current administration.
“I think what we see is what happens when we take things for granted,” she said, according to People. “For the eight years Barack was president, it was like having the ‘good parent’ at home. The responsible parent, the one who told you to eat your carrots and go to bed on time.”
“And now we have the other parent,” Obama continued. “We thought it’d feel fun, maybe it feels fun for now because we can eat candy all day and stay up late, and not follow the rules.”
She also suggested that Trump has taken the country “backward” since coming into office.
“What I learned is that as [Barack] said, the arc of history is long, and what we’re here to do is make a mark. And you do what you do because you know it’s the right thing to do, not because you’ll get credit for it, or because it says something about your personal legacy. You do the work because you’re slowly moving the needle,” Obama explained. “There are times in history when we feel like you’re going backward, but that’s part of the growth.”
April 6, 12:44 p.m. Updated with Obama’s quotes about Trump.
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