First lady Michelle Obama became emotional today while delivering a high school commencement address in Washington as she recalled the enormous impact that her parents had on her and her brother when they were growing up.
"I remember my parents sacrificing for us, pouring everything they had into us, being there for us, encouraging us to reach for a life they never knew," the first lady said during her remarks to graduates of The Academies at Anacostia, a charter school in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods
The first lady said she is where she is today, not because her parents had money or a college degree, but because they provided unconditional love and support.
"I remember my mom pushing me and my brother to do things she'd never done herself; things she'd been afraid to do herself," she said. "What I can remember is my father getting up every day and going to work at the water filtration plant, even after he was diagnosed with MS, even after it got hard for him to button his shirt, and to get up and walk."
The first lady's father, Fraser Robinson, passed away in 1991. Her mother, Marian Robinson, lives at the White House.
Michelle Obama, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, urged the graduates to never scale back their goals and dreams because only they control their destiny.
She said that when she was growing up on Chicago's South Side, people told her that success wasn't meant for a girl like her.
"Growing up, there were plenty of times that I doubted my capabilities, and those doubts were fueled by a lot of people around me," she said. "Kids teasing me when I studied hard. Teachers telling me not to reach too high because my test scores weren't good enough."
Obama encouraged the graduates to "soak it up" and "do a little patting" on the back, because many of the students probably went through times when they were uncertain they would make it to this stage -- just she had in her childhood.
"I imagine that for some of you all, getting this far hasn't been easy. Perhaps there were those who wanted to write you off, maybe because of assumptions they made about you or your school or your community. But every day you're proving them wrong," she said. "You're proving that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about you or what you can achieve. The only thing that matters, rather, is what you think about yourself and what you're willing to do to achieve your goals. That's all that matters."
Last year the management of The Academies at Anacostia was transferred from the D.C public school system to Friendship Public Charter Schools. The school has seen a marked improvement in its graduation rate in just one year. Today 164 students (79 percent) received diplomas and more than 90 percent of the graduates have been accepted to colleges. There were fewer than 30 percent just last year.
Subtly acknowledging the fact that many of the graduates' families are struggling and have worries about how to pay for college, Mrs. Obama said she understands all too well because her parents had the same concerns when she and her brother were in high school.
"My parents didn't have the money to cover college tuition for me and my brother. Neither of my parents went to college or had any idea how to support us," she said.