Using her own struggles as an example, Michelle Obama addressed sophomores at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington last month and shared with them the monumental importance of pursuing higher education no matter what.
The First Lady is no stranger to academic adversity. As an underprivileged high school student in Chicago, she dreamed of graduating from Princeton University while riding the bus across town to attend a better school. “Some of my teachers straight up told me that I was setting my sights too high,” Mrs. Obama said during her speech. “They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton.” The odds were stacked against her, yet she remained focused on her classes and eventually made her college dreams come true.
Her effort to keep that same dream alive for low-income students across America is part of a larger initiative to have the United States rank first in the world in the percentage of college graduates. According to the New York Times, the United States once lead the world in the number of 25 to 34 year-olds with college degrees. Now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations. Every year more jobs are requiring degrees beyond a high school diploma and by 2020, the presidential couple hopes to make sure America’s young adults are ready and competitive.
The main tenants of her speech included advice about students taking responsibility for their own futures, managing their time, and working without supervision. “Nobody was going to take my hand and lead me to where I needed to go,” Mrs. Obama explained, “Instead it was going to be up to me to reach my goal. I would have to chart my own course.”
Graduating from high school, getting into a good college, and staying in college takes hard work and discipline, but more than anything it takes the right attitude. Mrs. Obama stressed the importance of commitment regardless of circumstances or obstacles: “No matter what path you choose, no matter what dreams you have, you have got to do whatever it takes to continue your education after high school.”