Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Dole call for national unity at Heroes and History Makers event
© Brendan Kownacki

Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaAn immigrant to get the job done at Homeland Security Obama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Obama sold record-breaking 1.7 million copies of memoir in first week MORE is calling on the country to come together, saying "we all have to remember that we're working for the same goals."

The former first lady was honored Wednesday for her work with military caregivers at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation's second annual Heroes and History Makers gala in Washington.

Before Obama was introduced by Tom Hanks, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) said in remarks to the 800-strong crowd, "I think we can all agree that cynicism has a grip on our nation. In the face of every societal problem, we hear the same bitterness and doubt: 'These people will never work with those people.'"

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"There’s such divisiveness. Our nation is stalemated and nothing gets done. Everyone just stays at home and tweets about problems. Nobody is trying to solve them," Dole, 83, continued.

"For those who have resigned themselves to such pessimism, I invite them to look around the room tonight. We are not divided — we are united," Dole said to applause at The Anthem.

"I’m grateful for words of unity from Sen. Dole that come at a timely moment," Obama said.

The "Becoming" author, who launched the "Joining Forces" initiative with Jill Biden while serving as first lady, praised the families of military veterans, saying, "In all honesty, it's a little strange for me to be standing up here alone."

"I’m not managing a household all alone while my loved one is serving overseas," Obama, 55, said.

"I don’t say this lightly; one of the greatest privileges of my life was meeting you, and learning from you, and being inspired by you. You all changed me forever. You changed the way I see service. You changed the way I see war. You changed the way I see this entire country," she added.

Obama also quipped about the vitality of Dole and her 96-year-old husband, former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). While backstage at the event, Obama said, aides kept trying to offer her a seat to sit down.

"If Sens. Dole and Dole aren't sitting, then I'm certainly not going to sit!" Obama exclaimed. 

"The Post" star Hanks, the foundation's chairman, also joked about Elizabeth Dole's spirited strength, referring to her as both a "velvet thunderstorm" and a "velvet hurricane" in a backstage chat with reporters. Asked what she thought about Hanks’s nicknames, Dole told ITK, "I'll take any one of them!"

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot National reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeIllinois Republican elected to serve as next ranking member of House Veterans' Affairs Committee Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Diana Harshbarger wins GOP primary to replace Rep. Phil Roe MORE (R-Tenn.) were also recognized with Congressional Caregiver Champion Awards at the event hosted by "Today's" Savannah Guthrie for their "leadership on military caregiver issues on Capitol Hill."