"Forget what they're saying in Washington. That's not necessarily who we are," the former FLOTUS tells Ellen.
Appearing on Thursday's show as part of the host's 60th birthday celebration, Obama stressed the importance of empathy in a time when there's so much division in world.
"I personally feel frightened. I feel like the world is a very scary place right now," Ellen DeGeneres said during their conversation. "And I do a show every single day where I'm supposed to make people happy and forget about what's going on in the world ... what is your take on what's happening?"
"People are afraid but then there are people who feel good about the direction of the country, so I mean, that's what makes this country complicated because it's made up of so many different people from different backgrounds," she diplomatically answered.
"I mean, we are this mosh pit of society and sometimes there's a rub, but the thing that we have to remember, the thing I learned in the eight years I was in the White House is that what we do every day in our lives, the good things that we do every day and we know we do it. We show empathy, we care for each other, you know, we do have a lot in common," Obama continued. "That's what it means to lead with hope and not fear. And that's all we have is hope. So, I would just encourage your viewers, the country, to do the things we do every day. To love each other, to take care of each other, to show empathy – and you can't do that only when people make you feel good or safe."
"We've got to do it all across the board. We have to be an open-hearted nation and that's who we are. And that's the truth of who we are. We can't lose sight of that," she said to raucous applause. "So, let's just keep living our lives like that every single day and forget what they're saying in Washington. That's not necessarily who we are. We know who we are and I know who this country is cause I went out to towns and cities all over the place and even if people didn't agree with me or my husband, they were kind, they were hardworking, they were trying to do the right things every day and that's what we have to remember about each other. That's who we are, so I’m grateful to all of you for the work you've done."
While appearing on Thursday's episode, Obama also revealed what was inside the Tiffany & Co. box that Melania Trump gifted her on Inauguration Day last year.
"It was a lovely frame," she said in her first televised interview since leaving the White House.
As for why the exchange was so awkward, Obama added that protocol was to blame.
"I mean, this is like a state visit so they tell you that you're going to do this, they're going to stand here. Never before do you get this gift, so I'm sort of like, 'OK, what am I supposed to do with this gift?'" she explained.
The moment became one of the most viral GIFs from the day, but Michelle said her husband ultimately came to the rescue.
"And then my husband saved the day," she said. "See he grabbed the box and took it back inside, but everybody cleared out. No staff, no one. I was like, 'What do you do with the box?'"