Atlanta high school students heard it first-hand from First Lady Michelle Obama, that she, like many of them, had to go through a lot when she was a teenager.  “You think somebody like me has never had any problems?”

The First Lady kicked off her Reach Higher Campaign Monday, Sept. 8, at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School, which includes Martin Luther King, Jr. among its graduates. The bus tour also includes U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It’s moving across the country visiting low-income students.

Mrs. Obama told the hundreds of students, gathered inside the Washington High gymnasium that, while a child on the south side of Chicago,  she watched her father suffer with Multiple Sclerosis. “It was a disease that made it hard for him to walk”, she said. The First Lady called her father her hero, and the rock of the family. She said, “Seeing my father in pain, seeing him struggle, watching that every day, it broke my heart.” But, Mrs. Obama said, that as hard as that was, she knew that the best thing she could do for her father was, “To take care of myself and to handle my business, and to make him proud. He expected me to keep myself out of trouble, and that’s what I did.” She also told the students, “He told me that he expected me to go to college and years later when I got that college degree that he’d always dreamed for me, I knew that I had done right by my father.”

Mrs. Obama also recalled to the students how one of her high school counselors told her that she should not apply to Princeton. “She told me that I was setting my sights too high” said Obama. “She told me don’t bother.” Mrs. Obama told the students, “That stuck with me. It made me a little uncertain, it threw me off a little bit.” But the First Lady said she didn’t let those emotions get the best of her. Instead, “I focused on getting good grades. I focused on signing up for activities, lining up my recommendations from teachers and mentors.” Obama went on to say, “I studied hard and made it to Princeton.” In the end, I ended up showing that counselor just how wrong she was, ‘cause look at where I am right now.” Mrs. Obama telling the students, “If I can do it, you can do it.” The gymnasium erupted in applause.

“She’s okay?”,  the First Lady said when at least two students were overcome by the heat. “You okay? Make sure she’s okay too. Right here. Right here. Everybody else feeling okay?” The students were taken away from the crowd and allowed to lie down.

Mrs. Obama continued her speech saying, “Everybody still fired up and ready to go? Are you listening to me? Do you hear what I’m telling you? 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 to, because you have got to go and get your education. You’ve got to.”

After the stop at Washington High School, Mrs. Obama attended a voter registration event in Atlanta with Georgia U.S. Senate Candidate Michelle Nunn.

Written by Maria Boynton


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