First Lady Michelle Obama to Young Americans: You Aren’t “Nuts” to Take a Community Service Job

By Lindsey Ellerson

Oct 15, 2009 4:32pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: First Lady Michelle Obama said today that young people should be encouraged to go into community and public service, even at the expense of a higher-paying, more prominent job. Mrs. Obama told her familiar story of how she left a lucrative position at a prestigious law firm in Chicago to take a public service job that drew a smaller salary. “I think in my first year of working, I've made more than both of my parents combined,” the first lady said at an event in Miami today honoring Florida students and teachers for their community service and leadership. “And when I decided to leave for a public service job, let me tell you, my family and my friends started to worry about my sanity. ” She said they thought she was “nuts,” but she didn’t pay it much attention. “It didn't matter how much money I was making, it didn't matter how prestigious my job seemed to others — I knew I was making an impact in the community that raised me,” the first lady said. “I knew I was helping to change people's lives in ways that I couldn't, sitting behind a big fancy desk.  I felt more successful than ever before in my life.” Mrs. Obama said that for today’s young people, the key is how to take their energy and excitement for public service and turn it into a key part of their lives, as either a career or extracurricular activity. “How do we counter those voices that tell them, ‘Well, if you don't get paid a lot money for what you do, then maybe what you do really isn't that valuable.’  Or voices that say, ‘Well, that's awfully nice that you want to do service, but when are you going to get a real job?,’” she asked.  Mrs. Obama touted measures the Obama Administration has taken to promote public service like Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and the United We Serve program. “[E]ach of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to offer.  No matter where you come from, or what you do for a living, you can make a difference in someone's life,” she said. “And in doing so, you can make a difference in your own life as well.” Mrs. Obama penned an op-ed on the importance of quality teachers for the Nov. 2009 issue of U.S. News & World Report with a similar message as her remarks in Miami today.  Urging more people to enter the field, Mrs. Obama writes that the impact good teachers can have goes beyond the classroom – “they are the key to the success of our economy.” “As the President has frequently said, in a twenty-first century global economy where jobs can be shipped to any place with an internet connection, and children here in America will be competing with children around the world for the same jobs, a good education is no longer just one road to opportunity – it is the only road,” she writes. The first lady calls for a “new generation of leaders to take their place in our nation’s schools.” “We need passionate, talented, committed men and women to step up and devote themselves to preparing our students to succeed in this new century,” Mrs. Obama writes. -Karen Travers

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