At a mentoring rally held at Wayne State University on May 26, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about both the importance of mentoring and of the students shaping their own futures.
The First Lady was in town to promote mentoring efforts, and spoke to a crowd of about 10,000 at Wayne State’s Adams Field.
She said Detroit is still a city of brave, bold and determined Americans, one where “clever and courageous” people come up with fresh new ideas.
“Detroit’s next chapter, Michigan’s next chapter, America’s next chapter are waiting to be written,” Obama told the gathered youth. “And it will be written by each and every one of you. Because your future, your city’s future, this country’s future, will look exactly like what each of you wants it to look like.”
She called on the younger generation to embrace the responsibility to be our future, while acknowledging that they did nothing to put our economy in its present state. No one would blame them, she pointed out, for feeling like no one’s listening or they’ve been given up on.
“I get that,” she said. “We all get that. But I hope — of all hopes — that you don’t feel that way. Because there is a real truth out there, and that is there are a lot of people listening.”
She and the president are among those who are listening, she assured.
“The folks who are joining me here today, we are all listening,” she said. “There are so many people who haven’t given up on you. There are so many people here who will always believe that you can do this. And there are so many people here who are counting on you all,” she said.
She wanted the students to recognize the possibilities waiting for them.
“I hope you realize how much potential you have and how capable you are of living up to that potential,” she said.
The simplest and surest way to live up to that potential, Obama said, is to keep focusing on education. That is the younger generation’s job, not playing video games, shooting hoops, or talking about how they’re going to make it big.
There is no “secret” to success.
“It’s your education, plain and simple,” she said. “It’s mastering math and science. It’s learning to write well. It’s learning to think for yourself and coming up with your own ideas and your arguments, and learning to express that.”
That, she said, is what made a difference for her and for the president, adding that President Obama wasn’t born a president, that he was no more talented or gifted than any of the students there.
“His life could have taken any turn, but what he did have was someone who believed in him and pushed him to work hard and do his best,” she said, adding that the president’s mother woke him at 4:30 a.m. to go over his lessons before he went to school and she went to work.
The future president often complained about getting up so early, only to have his mother reply, “You know this is no picnic for me either.”
Obama said her mother-in-law’s sacrifices ensured the young Barack Obama had every chance to one day become president if that was his desire.
“It’s education,” she reiterated, saying she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where people often struggled to make ends meet.