U.S. Must Top The World In College Graduates -- Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama


Howard University, Washington, D.C.

April 17, 2:42 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you.  Thanks, you guys.  (Applause.)  Thanks, Bow Wow.  Let’s give it up for Bow Wow.  Very proud of this young man.  I have grown very fond of him.  We’ve done some good work together, and his commitment to education, his commitment to young people, and BET’s commitment, it just means the world to me and I know it means the world to all of you.

But I am so excited to be here with all of you.  We’re going to have a chance to talk and really get candid and all that sort of stuff.  But I want to welcome you all to Washington, D.C., and also to Howard University -- one of the finest universities in the country.  (Applause.)  On this beautiful campus, on this beautiful day -- for those of you from Chicago, the weather here is better.  (Laughter.)  It’s not hard when you’re from Chicago.

But this is such an important occasion, and this is one of the reasons why I’m here.  Because one of the things that Barack and I are focusing on and will be focusing on for the rest of our lives, quite frankly, is making sure that young people understand the importance of an education.  And that means education beyond high school.

No longer is high school the bar.  That is not enough in today’s globalizing economy.  You have got to go to college, or get some kind of professional training beyond college.  And one of the goals that the President set is trying to make sure that we are the -- once again, the leader in college graduates in the world.  It’s called his North Star Goal.  We were at the top years back, but now we’ve fallen very far behind the rest of the world.

And it’s going to be up to all of you, because while there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on our end -- governments, private sector, the folks with money -- I want to talk to you all.  Because at the very least, you all have complete control over your futures.  How you approach your education is really still within your hands.  You don’t have time to wait for everybody to fix the system for you.  We have to have a hunger for education like we had when our parents and grandparents were fighting for us to have the right to come to these schools and to get the education.

So now, it’s up to you all to take that baton and do the very best you can with it.  And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be here with all of you, because this transition for some of you may be a little scary.  It may be unknown.  It was that way for me when I was growing up.  I mean, my older brother went to college, but I didn’t know anything about what my college experience was going to be like.

Unlike you all, I didn’t get tours like -- I didn’t even go on a college tour.  I didn’t go on a single -- nobody went on college tours.  It would have been nice to see what a dorm looked like.  The only reason I saw a dorm was because I visited my brother once when he was in college.  That was the only exposure.

And I applied here, I applied to Howard.  I applied to Northwestern.  I applied to the University of Wisconsin, Madison -- but I don’t even know why I applied.  I knew why I applied to Howard, but everywhere else was just a crapshoot.  They sent me a brochure, I was like, okay, I’ll apply.  (Laughter.)  I got in.  It’ll look -- the pictures looked nice.  That was all that I had.

So the fact that you guys have this opportunity to spend a weekend on a college campus and really get a feel for what this experience is going to be like is really a tremendous opportunity that I hope you all take advantage of.

So I’m going to stop talking, because I really want to hear from you all.  You guys, feel free to ask anything.  I’m going to turn it back over to Bow Wow, and then we’ll just talk.  We’ll get real candid.  And then when the press leaves, we’ll really get candid.  (Laughter.)



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