Obama first uttered the now-viral motto “when they go low, we go high” during her speech in support of Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Speaking at this year’s event on behalf of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Obama doubled down on the slogan, arguing that “going high is the only thing that works.”
“Let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty,” Obama said. “Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.”
The keynote address followed speeches by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and several other prominent figures backing Biden in the 2020 election. The former first lady touted Biden’s record as vice president, arguing that “he knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead our country.”
Obama ripped President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing him of leaving the economy “in shambles” and millions of people unemployed. She also criticized his handling of social justice issues and accused him of “emboldening” white supremacists during his time in office.
“He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head,” Obama said. “He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
Obama delivered prerecorded remarks for the event after Democratic leaders were forced to cancel in-person events due to the pandemic.
“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election,” she added.