(CNN) — You can’t deny it. Michelle Obama shattered a glass ceiling when she became the first black first lady in the United States.

In her first public appearance since leaving the White House, the former first lady was asked which shards of glass had cut her the deepest.

In response, she referenced an incident in which a West Virginia county employee called her an “ape.”

“The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut,” Obama replied, according to the Denver Post. “Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.”

There were no video cameras allowed at the event, but CNN has verified the remarks the Post reported with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

Tuesday’s speech at the Pepsi Center in Denver was part of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s 30th anniversary fundraising celebration.

‘A kind word can mean the world’

Seated in a comfortable armchair in a talk-show format, Obama was met with cheers when she made brief remarks about the current administration and “boos” after saying she wouldn’t be running for public office.

“Michelle is a rarity in today’s society,” said Mattye Crowley, one of the event’s 8,300 attendees. “We have witnessed for over eight years people picked and tormented her every move, and she stayed true to herself.”

The former first lady told the audience how best to empower girls from a young age. She said a large portion of that responsibility falls on education.

“If we want girls in STEM, we need to rethink how we deliver education,” Obama told the crowd, using the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “Teachers, a kind word can mean the world to a young girl.”

While serving as first lady, she launched several campaigns aimed at education.

“Reach Higher” inspires students to complete education past high school, and “Let Girls Learn” helps facilitate educational opportunities for young girls in developing countries.

Earlier this year, CNN reported on an internal memo that the Trump administration would discontinue “Let Girls Learn,” but the White House denied the claim the program would be changed.

‘Protect the things we value’

They may have left the White House, but the Obamas aren’t going away anytime soon.

“Public service and engagement will be a part of my life and my husband’s life forever,” Obama said.

She stayed away from current politics, but did mention the campaign slogan of her husband, former President Barack Obama.

“It was never ‘yes he can’; it was ‘yes we can,’” Obama said. “When we put so much on a person, on a leader, we absolve ourselves of doing anything else. We’re all on a journey together — we are all figuring this out. We all want someone who will fix things, but we’re going to have to fix it together.”

The Obamas largely kept out of the public eye in the first few months of President Donald Trump’s presidency. They’re busy writing memoirs, which will likely be released in 2018.

Some final words of wisdom from Obama? Surround yourself with other powerful people, don’t be afraid to fail and protect what you love.

“What is going on within us [women] that we don’t feel worthy enough to protect the things we value?” she said.