Last week, Michelle Obama gave her last official address as First Lady of the United States, and I fully admit that it choked me up. Not just because the FLOTUS was emotional or because we’re drawing nearer to an administration change, and changes always brings a degree of uncertainty, but also because her final speech focused on empowerment through education and celebrated school counselors.

As a strong supporter of education and a firm believer in its transformative power, Mrs. Obama’s words resonated with me. What a unique role education plays in the lives of everyone. Truly, it’s something we all encounter, for however long and in whatever form—it’s something of a unifier in that it affects and shapes all of us, for better and for worse.

And yes, there are some things about education that fall squarely into the “for worse” category for many. Issues of equality, equity, accessibility, affordability, and even relevance still persist, and often it’s difficult to find effective, sustainable solutions.

And yet, with all of its challenges, education still stands unequivocally as a pathway to success. Education offers us all a way to improve ourselves, and our communities and our nation, too. It’s important to have the occasional reminder of just how powerful and hopeful that sentiment is, because even though I am so grateful for all that education has done for me, and for all that it continues to do for me, it can be easy to lose sight of positives amidst a sea of challenges.

While there may be a lot up in the air about what changes could be coming to education and education policy, Mrs. Obama’s speech was an affirmation, a validation of a lot of the things we believe in and work for in education. Namely, that education is essential, from early childhood to post-secondary—and, one could argue, that education continues to hold great value and importance even beyond that.