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Michelle Obama Urges Young South Africans to Stay in School

By MacKenzie C. Babb | Staff Writer | 23 June 2011
Michelle Obama at University of Cape Town (AP Images)

First lady Michelle Obama addresses students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Washington — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told young South Africans June 23 that they will achieve their dreams through hard work, dedication and a strong belief in themselves.

“I can see the same promise in all of you as I do in my own girls. That’s what keeps me motivated,” the first lady said to students at the University of Cape Town. “And I want to make sure that you all see that promise in yourselves. It’s so clear to me and so many others. The challenge is to make sure you see it in yourselves.”

The White House said Obama spoke to 55 secondary students chosen from area schools in historically disadvantaged communities for a daylong “immersion experience” at the university, during which they took campus tours, met with university students and were exposed to studying on campus.

“I know that every single one of you can be successful at a university like this or anywhere in the world,” Obama told the students. “Nowadays, it is really about how hard you’re willing to work. It is about whether you’re willing to stay focused and be disciplined. And more importantly, it is about first believing in yourself every step of the way,” she said.

The first lady said the world is looking to South Africa to be a global leader in the 21st century. “And when we say we’re looking to South Africa, what we really mean is that we’re looking to all of you … because you guys are going to be the ones leading this nation in 10 years, in 20 years, in 30 years.”

Obama shared her story of growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. Although her family did not have much money, Obama said, her parents emphasized the importance of education and were determined to see their children go to college. She and her brother went on to graduate from Princeton University, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States.

The first lady’s remarks to students in Cape Town came as part of her weeklong visit to southern Africa. Since arriving June 21, she has met with former South African President Nelson Mandela, visited with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, and addressed the U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Conference. She has also spent time with schoolchildren and toured national museums with daughters Sasha and Malia, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson.

Obama is scheduled to travel June 24 to Gaborone, Botswana, where she will meet with President Ian Khama, visit a children’s clinic and take a private safari with her family before returning to Washington June 26.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)