First Lady Michelle Obama’s Late-Night Goodbye: Don’t Be ‘Afraid of What’s to Come’

In her final late-night appearance as first lady, Michelle Obama stopped by Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ to console the nation about its future.


It somehow makes sense that Michelle Obama would choose the same show for her final late-night appearance as first lady that Donald Trump did for what, at this rate, could very well be his final late-night appearance ever.

With just over a week left in the White House, the first lady isn’t quite in unfiltered mode yet. She wouldn’t want to risk a last-minute gaffe, as she nearly did in November when she admitted to Stephen Colbert that she has “no sympathy” for Melania Trump after the future FLOTUS plagiarized parts of her RNC speech.

So, unsurprisingly, she kept things light—if a little emotional—on the Tonight Show Wednesday, following her husband’s tear-producing farewell speech the night before in Chicago. And she did it all by writing some “Thank You Notes.”

But first, after participating in a bit where she hid behind a curtain as some of her biggest supporters thanked her, Obama emerged to the sounds of The Roots playing Stevie Wonder’s “Please Don’t Go,” her favorite singer, who also happened to be the night’s musical guest.

“I just want to personally say thank you for being our only first family that we’ve had,” Fallon said. “Since we started Late Night, we’ve been doing bits and sketches together,” he added, reminiscing about their exercise and dance adventures over the years. She returned the praise, calling him an “amazing partner” on her initiatives while also being “funny, kind, and cute.”

“I feel like crying right now,” the first lady said of this emotionally fraught couple of weeks leading up to her family leaving the White House. “I didn’t think that it was going to be that emotional, because it’s like, yeah, we’re ready. We’re good. We’re ready to go. It’s been eight years. Eight years is enough, we’re packing up. But it has been surprisingly emotional for all of us, in ways that we didn’t expect.” Those feelings were palpable in her farewell speech at the White House this past week.

What got her choked up, she said, was talking about kids in America. “When I think about the fact that some of them are afraid about what’s to come,” she said. “I don’t want them to be afraid. I want them to embrace the future and know that the world is getting better. We have bumps in the road, we have ups and downs. But I want our kids to move forward, I don’t care where they come from, with strength and with hope.”

As for President Obama’s speech in Chicago, Fallon said he spent the night crying on his wife’s shoulder. “He’s just the best man in the whole wide world,” he said, not hiding his true feelings. “I mean, no way could there be a cooler human being than that guy. And every time Malia lost it, I lost it.”

The first lady also cleared up the biggest question of the night: Where was Sasha?

“She had a final,” Obama confirmed. “And, you know the Obamas, girl—Sorry! You better take your test. You can say goodbye later.”

The chumminess between Fallon and the first lady continued through their interview, and Obama was even comfortable to play along with the unintended sexual innuendo he let slip when he asked her if there was one room in the White House she has particularly fond memories of. “You guys, grow up,” she told the cheering audience.

Looking back at some of the most iconic photos of the Obama presidency, the first lady said, “It’s turned out to be pretty good because, you know, we can’t go back to that house. It’s not like you can knock and say, can I see my room? It’s over. Once you’re out, you’re out. You know, that oath is real.”

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

Later in the show, Obama talked more about passing the torch to her successor, Melania Trump.

Asked what advice she gave when the two women met after the election, she would only say, “We talked about kids, the importance of family and creating some safe spaces to protect that family space.” Recalling the friendly advice she received from Laura Bush eight years ago, she added, “It’s so important for people around the country to understand that this democracy is not about party. It is not about demonizing the other side. We’re all trying to get stuff done and we’ve seen that decency and we’re trying to emulate that decency.”

As promised, they ended the interview by writing some “Thank You Notes” at Fallon’s desk. “Thank you, Barack, for proving you’re not a lame duck,” the first lady wrote, “but my very own silver fox.” And then, “Thank you, Inauguration Day, or as I like to call it, let’s move.”

Fallon ended by thanking Michelle Obama for “always promoting physical fitness,” adding, “and, hey, since you like exercising so much, how about running for president?”

The loud cheers did not seem to sway the first lady, who just laughed and shook her head.