Speaking to an audience of teachers and representatives from youth and education organizations on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that education will be her major focus for the remainder of her husband’s presidency.
“I am going to be doing my best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people, that’s my focus,” she said, noting that none of the other issues she has been working on since 2009 were “going away, we’re just adding more on.”
The first lady’s remarks came after a White House screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” a movie that tells to story of two inner-city youth who are left to fend for themselves in the Bronx after their parents are arrested.
“This movie isn’t just about the challenges that kids like Mister and Pete are facing, and that’s really why this movie is so powerful to me, because it’s also about their courage, their grit, their resilience,” Mrs. Obama said. “Those are three words you’re going to hear me say a lot over the next three years.”
Mrs. Obama said the film is one of her favorites of the year and gave special thanks to singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, who was a major investor in the film and in attendance at Wednesday’s screening.
“I was telling Alicia that I saw this movie this summer, and I wept, like I know all of you did, because you can’t help but weep and laugh and look in horror and to cheer for these two young kids because they represent all of our kids,” Mrs. Obama said, referring to Keys as “my dear friend.”
The first lady said her new role in advocating for kids to pursue higher education will support the president’s goal to make the United States the country with the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.
“The one thing that I can bring to this is the message that we can give directly to young people,” she said. “I’m going to be conveying the simple truth: I’m going to tell them that they have everything they need to succeed already. It’s all in there. But, they still have to be committed to getting their education.”
She said her emphasis will be on reaching kids who come from underprivileged circumstances, like “Mister” and “Pete” from the film.
“I want these young people to understand that their struggles can actually be a source of strength and even a source of pride, because they’ve overcome obstacles and learn skills that many of us will never have.”
“I tell my kids, you know, you can’t always teach resilience,” Mrs. Obama continued. “It’s the life you live that gets you there.”
She spoke directly to the teachers in the audience as a source of inspiration for her.
“When all of you are out there working to inspire and educate these kids, you’re not just building a better future for them and for their families,” she said. “You are actually building a better future for our country. That’s the work that you do.”
“That’s really what drives me, and that’s truly what drives my husband, your president,” she added.