Michelle Obama
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama participates in a forum on girls' education at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2016. REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST

After eight years of calm and poise in the public eye, Michelle Obama was expected to deliver Friday her final speech as first lady. Obama, who has become a celebrated American icon and potent political speaker, will leave the White House Jan. 20 as one of the most beloved figures in contemporary politics with sky-high approval ratings.

Her speech was set to be delivered to the 2017 School Counselor of the Year event in the East Room of the White House at 11 a.m. EST, an annual tradition she started in 2015.

Obama has managed to become so loved by the country largely by staying above the political fray that tends to damage elected politicians. As first lady, she launched an anti-childhood obesity program — dubbed Let’s Move — championed girls' education and has been decidedly pro-veteran. To promote healthy eating, Obama installed a White House vegetable garden and has appeared on late-night talk shows — quick wit and calm affability in tow — to promote the issues that matter most to her.

Beyond policy and public health initiatives, the first lady has also become a fashion icon who turned heads on day one by wearing stylish magenta gloves and bangs that accentuated her cheekbones. Her choice of dress, coat and hairstyle has been closely watched since then as she staked out a place in the annals of first lady fashion alongside the likes of Jackie Kennedy.

But, even as she promoted those popular measures and stood out in crowds of stodgy Washington, D.C., attire, Obama proved herself as a potent public speaker. During the 2016 campaign, she became one of the most effective critics of now-President-elect Donald Trump. She drew headlines for a series of speeches starting at the Democratic National Convention in July, when she rolled out one of the most memorable lines for Democrats that year: “When they go low, we go high.” She would later be celebrated for her sharp attacks on Trump’s attitude toward women when a 2005 video of him bragging about sexual assault unearthed and led to one of the few times that the then-presidential candidate explicitly apologized for his remarks.