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Michelle Obama explains her catchphrase ‘When they go low, we go high’

Michelle Obama has explained the meaning behind a catchphrase she uttered during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

The former US First Lady, whose forthcoming second memoir The Light We Carry is released today (15 November), said the words: “When they go low, we go high” in a speech supporting Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign at the time.

Clinton had been running against Donald Trump. During her speech, Obama said: “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is: ‘When they go low, we go high’.”

In a new interview with Stephen Colbert that aired on Monday night (14 November), the author and attorney was asked if people “really have to go ‘high’” when politicians “go low”.

The Late Show host said: “I totally understand going high when somebody goes low, but the bar is so low that staying at your own altitude still means higher. Do I actually have to go up here or can I just be normal? Do I have to be a saint? Because down here, I’m pissed off!”

Obama replied: “For me, going high is not losing the urgency or the passion or the rage, especially when you are justified in it.

“Going high means finding the purpose in your rage. Rage without reason, without a plan, without direction is just more rage. And we’ve been living in a lot of rage.”

She added that going low is “unsustainable” and explained: “If going low worked, we’d do it. It might be a ‘quick fix’ but it doesn’t fix anything over the long term.

“I’m trying to push us to think about solutions that will actually unite us and get us focused on the real problem. That’s what I mean when I say, ‘go high’. So yes, go high. America, please go high.”

Obama’s new book follows her 2018 memoir Becoming. In it, she discusses how to overcome a “fearful mind” and writes candidly about her insecurities over her appearance, her parenting and more.

“I’ve lived in my fearful mind for 58 years now. She makes me uneasy. She likes to see me weak,” she wrote.

The author revealed that her height was a particular source of insecurity and, as the tallest person in school, she was always “bringing up the rear”.

Doing so “created a small wound in me, the tiniest kernel of self-loathing that would keep me from embracing my strength”, she wrote.