Former US First Lady Michelle Obama has gone public again with her criticism of President Donald Trump, telling Americans to vote for Joe Biden "like your lives depend on it".
After a remarkable period in American politics that saw the sitting President hospitalised for a disease that he has repeatedly downplayed, Obama castigated the 74-year-old Trump as "not up to the job" of leading the US.
"In the greatest crisis of our lifetimes, he doubled-down on division and resentment, railed against measures that could have mitigated the damage," she said.
"Seven months later, he still doesn't have a plan for this virus. Seven months later, he still won't wear a mask consistently and encourage others to do the same," she said. "Instead, he continues to gaslight the American people by acting like this pandemic is not a real threat."
Obama said that the president's tenure had been accompanied by "a constant drumbeat of fear, division and chaos that's threatening to spiral out of control" and called out his record on race relations, saying that the president and his political allies had been "stoking fears about Black and brown Americans" to "distract from his breathtaking failures by giving folks someone to blame other than them".
Acknowledging that the divisive rhetoric has found support among some Americans, Obama said that Trump's stance was "morally wrong, and yes, it is racist. But that doesn't mean it won't work".
She drew on her own experiences of racism in the US and her own family history and asked her fellow Americans to put themselves in the shoes of minorities.
"I want everyone who is still undecided to think about all those folks like me and my ancestors," she said.
"The millions of folks who look like me and fought and died and toiled as slaves and soldiers and labourers to help build this country. Racism, fear, division, these are powerful weapons. And they can destroy this nation if we don't deal with them head on," she continued.
"As a Black woman who has – like the overwhelming majority of people of colour in this nation – done everything in my power to live a life of dignity, and service, and honesty, the knowledge that any of my fellow Americans is more afraid of me than the chaos we are living through right now, well, that hurts.
"Imagine how it feels to wake up every day and do your very best to uphold the values that this country claims to holds dear – truth, honour, decency – only to have those efforts met by scorn, not just by your fellow citizens, but by a sitting president."
"Imagine how it feels to have a suspicion cast on you from the day you were born, simply because of the hue of your skin. To walk around your own country scared that someone's unjustified fear of you could put you in harm's way."
Obama said that harm could be from: "A racial slur from a passing car … a routine traffic stop 'gone wrong' … maybe a knee to the neck."
She reflected on her time in the White House and spoke of how much presidents are driven by their character and values.
"After seeing the presidency up close for eight years, maybe the most important thing I've learned about the job is that how a president focuses their time and energy in office is a direct reflection of the life they've lived before entering the White House," she said.
"A president's policies are a direct reflection of their values, and we're seeing that truth on display with our current president, who has devoted his life to enriching himself."
She warned of dire consequences if Trump is not removed at the election and made an impassioned plea for Americans to vote him out: "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. Search your hearts, and your conscience, and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it."