In an address Monday at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School, while discussing the importance of education, first lady Michelle Obama shared with the students “some insights” that rich kids already possess.
“Do you hear what I’m telling you? Because I’m giving you some insights that a lot of rich kids all over the country – they know this stuff, and I want you to know it, too. Because you have got to go and get your education. You’ve got to,” Michelle Obama said.
The first lady’s address to the students was part of a back-to-school “prep” rally with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other administration officials.
Mrs. Obama told students they should prepare for college now, and learn how to “rally when you get knocked down along the way,” in the way that she did.
Her speech was interrupted when one of the students fainted, to which Mrs. Obama responded, “And that’s what the second part of this prep rally is about – it’s about rallying when things go wrong.”
After checking to see if the student was “okay,” Mrs. Obama recommended to the students, “Sometimes standing up – if anybody is starting to feel tired standing up, bend your knees – and eat your breakfast and lunch.”
And there are going to be plenty of times, you guys – have you dealt with situations where you just feel like you want to give up? Like it’s just too hard? Like everything is going wrong, you don’t have the support you need; that every time you try, you get something right, something else happens – right? You think that’s never happened to me? You think somebody like me has never had any problems?
Well, let me tell you, I still remember how one of my high school counselors told me that I shouldn’t apply to Princeton. They told me I would never make it there, that I was setting my sights too high – can you believe that? She told me, don’t bother.
She said that she worked on getting good grades, participated in activities, and gathered recommendations from her teachers.
“And in the end, I ended up showing that counselor just how wrong she was – because look at where I am right now,” she said as the students applauded.
Mrs. Obama continued by stating that some of the students might live in very difficult neighborhoods “where you have to watch your back even – every time you leave the house.”
She described various challenging situations inner city students might face, such as being made fun of, not having parental supervision, financial problems, or loss of loved ones to gun violence or drugs, and acknowledged these circumstances are difficult for anyone to cope with, but especially for a young person “still trying to grow up.”
The first lady told the students that those challenging situations could make them better college material than young people who have it easy.
“And let me tell you something – here is the secret to what you all have that a lot of other kids don’t – a lot of you already have that kind of grit, because all the challenges you’re facing right now at home, in your neighborhood, those experiences are making you tougher,” Mrs. Obama said. “They’re making you stronger. Those are advantages. They’re not disadvantages. And now that – you’ve got to just learn how to use that grit to help you get to and through college. It’s the same determination – you already have it.”