ABC News' Yunji de Nies reports: First Lady Michelle Obama told Washington Math Science Technical (WMST) High School’s graduating class that they are “more than ready” for the challenges ahead and to ignore “the doubters.”
Mrs. Obama joked that she received many invitations to speak at commencements this year. “More than I did last year,” she said, adding that she choose WMST because she “wanted to celebrate the achievements of young people in my own home town.”
She spoke about her own upbringing and her struggle to get to -- and then through -- the Ivy league amidst “voices of people sowing doubts in my head.” She said that although she was always confident, “there was a part of me that started to believe the doubters.”
Mrs. Obama also spoke about her husband’s choice for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayer and her story of growing up in the Bronx and making it to Princeton. She said Sotomayer described walking on to the Princeton campus like “landing in an alien country.”
“Judge Sotomayer says she still looks over her shoulder and wonders if she measures up,” Mrs. Obama said. “When I read her story, I understood how she feels.”
Mrs. Obama talked about other figures who have overcome hardship, including her own husband. “This biracial kids with a funny name from Hawaii, of all places,” she laughed, "who was taught that anything is possible."
“At some point in all of these lives we all felt a little like you might feel right now, we all had doubts, we all have doubts and sometimes we still do,” she told the graduates. “But in the end, we are all ready.”
“Judge Sotomayer is more than ready,” she said. "Barack Obama is certainly more than ready.”
She said she herself was ready, and that “You are more than ready to assume the mantle of leadership. It’s time to step up, step up, it’s time, no excuses.”
The commencement took place at Howard University, where Mrs. Obama delivered her second and final commencement address of the graduation season. In May, the first lady addressed the University of California, Merced’s class of 2009, after students conducted a letter-writing campaign inviting her to speak. In the case of WMST, it was a single letter sent by 19-year old Jasmine Williams, a graduating senior, that convinced the first lady to speak today.
In that letter, Williams wrote, “Where we come from, being a young minority means that we have little chance to succeed..The world already has a pre-determined thought that our generation is full of criminals and concubines."
At today’s ceremony, Williams presented the first lady with a crystal vase, with an inscription that read: “We have seen the light in you, planting trees, feeding the hungry, hugging and loving children, walking Bo and standing with royalty. You are a beacon on the hill giving light to all the WMST class of 2009.”
This afternoon, Mrs. Obama will host a lunch for former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Mrs. Reagan is visiting the Hill today for the unveiling of a statue honoring her husband. Yesterday she went to the White House, where President Barack Obama signed a bill creating the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commision, a panel which will plan events to mark the 100th anniversary of the former president’s birth.