Michelle Obama 'Failure is the Key to Success'

The first lady encourages high school graduates to challenge themselves in order to find happiness.
3:00 | 05/18/13

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Transcript for Michelle Obama 'Failure is the Key to Success'
To be hearing going royals you -- hot. And this is very exciting this is the only high school graduate I'm -- -- graduation I'm doing this year and. Let me start by thanking was stopped -- for that very kind introduction and I would love to see his mom's arms. About it and anyway. And hello. And she's showing a -- to. That's in the I also want to thank doctor turner for her leadership of this magnificent school. Especially. All of the steps the school has taken to serve healthy food and to make sure you all yes as -- -- get off the couch. And then move we we are death pleased to see the wonderful example. This school is setting for schools across the country and you should be very proud that. I also want to recognize. Congressman Cooper. Nashville mayor Karl dean. President Glover from Tennessee State University thank -- -- posted here. Today. And all I can say about -- Cape Wind ensemble is how you guys really. That was so. -- and very -- And of course I just want to thank -- thought Lauren and boost for a -- they are wonderful remarks. Great speeches. I don't remember those -- so forget about your -- I won't remember. The valedictorian -- -- -- species years. But congratulations on all your hard work. And of course I want to join in all of that thanks to the moms and the dads and Brothers and sisters in all the extended family members who were here today. You all have been here for these graduates every step of the way. And as a mom myself I am not looking forward to this day -- I want to hold -- to my babies at the longest possible sign of this is bittersweet but thank you for letting these young people in encouraging them and keeping them in line. And so you all deserve yes -- another round of applause for the family. -- And most importantly. I want it congratulate these fine young men and women right in front of us the -- OK class of 2013. Yes. -- to a very good. Now it's my understanding and one of the reasons why wanted to come here is that. I know that this is a very special school. And -- this is a wonderfully accomplished class. From. -- credible Brit band program up. So those three state track titles and the girls one yeah. So tell all the volunteering you've done in your community to the three graduates. Who made the national semi finals in the Intel science talent search. I could go on and on and on. You all should be very proud of the great things that you have done. In your lives so far. As a class you have earned millions of dollars in college scholarships. And this fall you will be heading to schools all across this country UT Vanderbilt Columbia do Colorado so many more. So I think it is fair to say that you all have certainly can't live -- see your class slogan. Act like royal but think like I. And and today. You become the latest. In a long line. Of success stories that started here at -- okay. Every single student in this class senior class hasn't graduated. Every single one of -- is going on to higher education -- military. So this school is truly the realization of the dream educational empowerment for all. A dream that began 130 years ago back when -- pearl building first opened its doors as a school for young African Americans. And since that building became home to MOK. Students every round every culture. Every zip code. You're out Nashville. Have walked through your calls each day to read -- to right. And to think into dream. And I have to tell you another reason why wanted to come here is that. -- things I've heard about this school it is. So familiar to me. Because I actually went to a school just like this morning when I was your age. I grew up on the Southside of Chicago and as I made my way through the south side. South side. Outside you can find in -- -- But as I made my way through elementary school could we didn't have junior high. My number one goal was to go to -- high school that would push me and challenge me. I want it to go somewhere that would celebrate achievement. Place where academic success. Wouldn't make me a target of teasing or bullying but instead would be a badge of honor. And for me. Whitney Young magnet high school was that place. And during my four years -- I made the most. All of my experiences I chose the classes that I thought would. -- -- -- -- signed up for every activity that I think -- -- applications with -- focus. My life around the singular goal of getting into the next school of my dreams. Which was Princeton University. And I I. But let me tell you I still remember that time in my life so vividly and you will see is -- It seemed like every paper was life or death. Every point on an exam was worth fighting morning. And lot of hits -- the airline faculty. You sick of them lobbying you for some extra -- thank you. My whole identity was bound up in checking those boxes. Winning every award I could. -- did it to. By the time I got through my high school graduation I was at the top of my class. Member of the National Honor Society student class treasure. And my college dreams have come true I was heading difference and that's all. So I thought I had everything I needed to get anyway. But graduates. -- just want to share something with you that I learned. I learned that I I had at all well. -- -- the first time. But everything I was so concerned about the grace the test scores. The worries about which schools my friends were getting into all of that stuff was far less important. Then I'd always thought. Because when I got to college. It turned out that I needed an entirely. New set of skills to earn my degree. I don't -- me wrong I'm not saying that grades aren't important. I'm just saying that they are less important. Than what you learn. And what you made up. And that's what I want to talk with you about today. About -- let's talk about. What lies ahead for all of you. And some of the things I wish I'd known when I was in your shoes. And a first sale let's talk about is the importance of community. Now when I -- at Princeton the whole college experience. Was a mystery to me I was sleeping in a room with strangers. And as I looked around -- all -- students. Who had come from wealthy families and -- third and fourth generation and estonians. I didn't always feel like I fit in. I was a little lonely times and so what I understood was that I needed to build a community of my own right. So I would I worked hard since make new friends in my classes and at the campus cultural center. I reached out to professors and administrators around campus. And soon enough I -- built a wonderful. Group of friends and supporters. That became my family away from home. And I relied on that family. Probably as heavily as you rely on your family. Stopping by folks rooms when I was bored call enough -- when I needed to vent. Leaning on them when I was anxious or down or just plain tired. And what I know now is that I would not have made it through that college -- it without that group of people behind my side. So graduates first thing out what you don't know I want you to think about. The importance. Of the community that you have here at MOK because it seems like a very special bond you'll -- You've got your friends here at school you've got great teachers need when you go home. To your family you've got parents and siblings who know you inside and now. But just understand that when you go to college. That's all gone. So you really going to have to work to re create that community. That system of support. Gonna have to do it from the ground up and there's so many ways to do that. You might try volunteering at a service group -- joining acquirer -- You might find your new community on your dorm floor or on an intramural soccer field. Doesn't matter where you find it just be sure to find it. Because it is so much harder to get through college. If you try to do this on your. Okay. And I know that some of you might be feeling a little anxious about that aspect of the college experience maybe you don't know anybody at the school you're heading to maybe you. Never felt like you quite fitting here at MLK I don't know. But here's something that I want you to remember the beautiful thing about college is that you get to start with a clean slate. And while it might take a little time I guarantee you that you will find friends that will let you be. The person you always wanted to be you will find friends who will challenge you and -- you. Friends who will be there for you win something goes wrong. Because believe me something inevitably will go wrong. And that leads me to the second thing that I wanna talk to you about and that his -- area. -- failure. It's probably a concept that many of you aren't there used to. I know I was like that. Or maybe -- which is good. In your -- But when I. I got to college that that happened -- me during my very first semester. I took a class on Greek mythology yes Greek mythology that was when he open -- I found myself sitting in -- lecture hall full of juniors and seniors -- I get there it. Struggling just to keep up and by the time I took the midterm exam on like -- Muster with the C. And it was the very first the -- gotten I was devastated. But instead of wilting. I found a way to fight through it. I've poured my heart and soul into a paper -- a lot of time talking and professes before and after class. And -- the and I ended up getting a good grade in that class but what I learned was. Far more important in that letter grade from that experience what I learned it was that. When something doesn't go your way. You just gotta adjust. You've got some big. And that's when you'll find out what you really need during those hard times. But you can only. Do that if you're willing to put yourself in a position where you might fail. And that's why so often failure is the key to success for so many great people. Take Steve Jobs who was fired from apple early in his career. And now his iPods and ipads and iphones have revolutionize the entire world. Oh era was demoted from her first job as a news anchor. Now -- any need a last name. And then there's -- -- Barack Obama. -- -- I -- take up a whole afternoon talking about his billions but. He lost his first race for congress. And now he gets to call himself my husband. All jokes aside the point is is that resilience and -- That ability to pick yourself up when you fall. Those are some of the most important skills you'll need as you make your way through college and human life. And here's the thing graduates. These qualities are not ones that you're born with they're not like. The color of your eyes or your height. They're not qualities that are beyond your control. Instead you can dictate where -- you'll have -- You can decide how hard you worked so I want you to make those choices right now today if you haven't already done so. Make those choices I want you to tell yourself that no matter what challenges. You face. That you will commit yourself to achieving your goals no matter where life takes you. And that brings me to my final point. And that's. Finding your passion. And I'll be honest I didn't find my passion until long after college. -- until after law school -- truth is I spent still spent way too much of my time at Princeton. Continuing to chase grades in check boxes and climb higher and higher went on a loss like did the same thing. By the time I was in my mid twenties I had everything I was told I should -- Fancy job at a prestigious law firm a big office and nice paycheck. But on the inside. Something was missing. And so. After a few. Not so I finally asked myself some big questions simple questions. What did I want out of my life. What makes me happy. What do I care about. Yeah simple questions that -- never bothered to ask too busy checking boxes. And soon I realized that what I really want and it was pretty simple. I want it to give back to the people around me to the world around me I wanted to live my life by the principal. That to whom much is given much is expected. So. For me. -- it makes it quit. That fancy job. And since then I've dedicated my life to giving back out of work to train young people poor. Careers in public service I've started community outreach programs at -- college in -- hospital. And today's First Lady and I'm working to honor our nation's military families and help our children grow up healthy. But -- I look back. I wish -- Asked myself what I really want it when I was sitting right where you walk. So graduates my message to all of you today is this. Do not waste a minute living someone else's dream. Each of us has unique gifts. But it takes. A lot of work. A lot of real work to discover what brings you joy. Just doesn't happen it requires -- spending -- some time and you won't find. What you love simply by checking boxes are patting your GPA he won't you -- figure it out only by listening to your guidance counselor your friends or even your parents. You can only find your passion by looking inside yourself. And -- hard work. And if you don't know what you want to do right now -- that's okay. In fact that's a good. Thing. Because that means you just got the freedom to explore so use it. I urge you to exit take classes in college like art history -- Or -- astronomy your web -- something you've never tried before. And even if you feel like you. Do you know what you eat you want to do the chances are you're probably going to have a number of different careers throughout your life just like me. Because the road to happiness is rarely a straight line just understand that it and rarely goes easily. So I really want you guys to be curious. And take risks. And when you get stopped and you will we all do we still get stuck right parents. Still get -- Don't be afraid to veer off course and take your life in another direction. And when you get anxious and you will because we still do right parents and or have moments about. -- -- Just remember this time remember all of the things that you have already accomplished. Right here and now you've got the tools for greatness right now. Think of all the challenges. You have already overcome right here in front of us. We have students who have stood up to bullying we have students who have dropped everything to help take care of ailing parents or grandparents. We have students right here and went overcomes some of the most difficult family situations imaginable right here. That's the kind of grit and determination that defines all of you each and every one of you. You all have worked so hard to make it -- Tuesday. And it you have been so blessed. Understand yet how blessed you are to be at a place like -- today. Because unfortunately schools like this don't exists for every kid -- black. And challenges. And inspires you fat. It seemed Levy with great stories and songs and poems for remembering math. But now we needed it. Make the most of these wonderful opportunities that you've been given because it is not enough just to make it to college. We need you to complete college we need you to finish. Hard and strong -- great relief. That is your responsibility that's your next job. And next year you're on your own in so many ways no one's going to be checked in on whether or not you make -- the -- that's over. No run. Is -- care if you cut. Corners on an assignment. No one's -- and no wedding you're doing your absolute very best every single day. No one that you that is an assault that it takes no one -- you so you have to take charge you hear your lives right now today's the day. And I want -- to start by figuring out how you gonna create. That new community. For yourself. What you to start with. Keeping that passion for learning burning strong I want you to start with. Understanding that -- challenges come your way all you've got to do is dig deep like you've been doing like you know how and find a way to come out on the other end stronger. As Dr. Martin Luther King himself points that. You don't get to the promised land without going through the wilderness. But graduates. If you remember all of that wonderful lessons that you've learned here -- in okay. If you keep acting like a royal. And they don't like Abbas. They believe me I am confident. That there is no promise. You can't realize. And there is no telling how bright your future will be. So congratulations again graduates we are also proud -- you you have done it got speed. We love you work hard. Six.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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