ABC News' Amy Bingham and Kristina Bergess report:
Bright pink tablecloths, red carpet stars and 120 rosy-faced high school girls filled the East Room of the White House Wednesday night for a dinner to celebrate mentoring with First Lady Michelle Obama. The event paired more than 20 famously successful women with girls from D.C.-area high schools to showcase the benefits of mentoring.
“You don’t always see was what it took for many of us to get to where we are today. You don’t always see the thousands of hours that were spent studying or practicing or rehearsing, the years spent working for that promotion, the hammers used to break glass ceilings,” Mrs. Obama said “All of them –- every last one of them -– had someone in their lives who took the time to encourage them and to inspire them. None of us are here on our own.”
Comedian, actress and author Ali Wentworth started the evening off by poking a little fun at the First Lady’s other initiatives.
"I'm glad that everyone's gathered here today in the East Room because we're going to talk about something that I think is vital to discuss and that is childhood obesity. Millions of Americans are…” Wentworth began before a White House aide who was in on the joke stopped her. “Who has a garden? Who knows how to organically grow… No?” she tried. The aide then called out “mentoring!”
“Oh, mentoring! That is such a great idea!" Wentworth joked.
The First Lady poked back.
"When I told my husband that Ali was going to be the MC he was like 'Huh, Ali's pretty funny but sometimes she can be a little inappropriate.' So far so good."
Wentworth shouted from the audience, “the night’s not over yet!”
Other notable guests at the evening’s festivities included Academy-Award winning actresses Hillary Swank and Geena Davis, Olympic gold medal gymnast Dominique Dawes, and the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Nancy Brinker.
“These women here, all of us, we weren’t born knowing the things that we know. We weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths and we weren’t born knowing how to play a concerto or how to blast off to space,” Mrs. Obama said. “All of these women have earned every single honor that they have. And they’ve fought for plenty of opportunities that they’ve experienced.”
“Once you see somebody on TV it looks like it’s easy, but the truth is we only know many of these women once they’ve become famous, once they’re in the news,” she said. “Faith and love and hard work — that's what got us through. You don't need money or connections. The question is do you let that fear stop you.”
The First Lady encouraged the mentees to “reach back and pull someone else up. It’s never too soon to start mentoring.”
Earlier in the day Mrs. Obama visited Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. where she talked about growing up on the South Side of Chicago. She gave a short speech then took two questions from students.
The First Lady encouraged students to work hard, despite obstacles, and get the best possible education.
“I know what it feels like to struggle to get the education that you need,” Mrs. Obama said. “In so many ways, I see myself in you all. And I want you to see yourselves in me, so that you’re not looking at me just as the First Lady of the United States.”