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  • (applause)

  • The First Lady: Ni hao.

  • It is truly a pleasure to be here

  • at the Number Seven School.

  • Thank you so much for your warm welcome.

  • Now, before I get started, on behalf of myself

  • and my husband, I want to say that our hearts go out

  • to all those with loved ones

  • on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

  • As I said this past weekend when I spoke

  • at Peking University, we are very much keeping

  • all of them in our thoughts and our prayers

  • at this tremendously difficult time.

  • So now, let me start by thanking your Principal,

  • Principal Liu, and your classmate, Ju Chao,

  • for that wonderful introduction.

  • Your English, Ju Chao, is excellent,

  • and you should be very proud.

  • Thank you so much.

  • (applause) And I want to thank all of the students

  • here today, both those of you here in person

  • and those of you joining remotely

  • from across the region.

  • I'm thrilled to be visiting

  • your wonderful school.

  • Now, in preparation for this visit,

  • before I left the U.S.

  • I visited the Yu Ying School.

  • It's a public school near the White House

  • in Washington, D.C., and all of the students

  • at this school study Chinese.

  • And I met with the sixth-grade class,

  • kids who are 11 and 12 years old.

  • They had recently taken a trip here to China,

  • and they were bursting with excitement.

  • They were eager to tell me about everything

  • about what they had seen.

  • But they admitted that before their trip,

  • they had all kinds of misconceptions about China.

  • They thought they would see palaces and temples

  • everywhere they went, but instead they found

  • massive cities filled with skyscrapers.

  • They weren't sure that they'd like the food

  • here in China, but they actually loved it,

  • and they learned how to use chopsticks.

  • And in the end, one of the students told me --

  • and this is his quote -- he said, "Coming home was

  • really exciting, but was at the same time sad."

  • Now, meeting these students reminded

  • me that when we live so far away from each other,

  • it's easy to develop all kinds

  • of misconceptions and stereotypes.

  • It's easy to focus on our differences --

  • how we speak different languages and eat different

  • foods and observe different traditions.

  • But as I travel the world, and I meet young people

  • from so many countries, I'm always struck

  • by how much more we have in common.

  • And that's been particularly true during

  • my visit here in China.

  • You see, the truth is that I grew

  • up like many of you.

  • My mom, my dad, my brother and I,

  • we lived in a tiny apartment in Chicago, which is one

  • of the largest cities in America.

  • My father worked at the local water plant.

  • And we didn't have much money, but our little

  • home was bursting with love.

  • Every evening, my family would laugh

  • and share stories over dinner.

  • We'd play card games and have fun for hours.

  • And on summer nights, I remember, when our

  • apartment got too hot, we'd all sleep outside

  • on our back porch.

  • Family meant everything to us,

  • including our extended family.

  • My grandparents lived nearby,

  • and my elderly great aunt and uncle lived in the apartment

  • downstairs from us.

  • And when their health started to decline

  • my parents stepped in, helping my uncle shave

  • and dress each morning, dashing downstairs

  • in the middle of the night to check on my aunt.

  • So in my family, like in so many of your families,

  • we took care of each other.

  • And while we certainly weren't rich,

  • my parents had big dreams for me and my brother.

  • They had only a high school education

  • themselves, but they were determined

  • to send us both to universities.

  • So they poured all of their love and all

  • of their hope into us, and they worked hard.

  • They saved every penny.

  • And I know that wasn't easy for them,

  • especially for my father.

  • You see, my father had a serious illness called

  • multiple sclerosis.

  • And as he got sicker, it got harder for him

  • to walk, and it took him longer

  • to get dressed in the morning.

  • But no matter how tired he felt, no matter how much

  • pain he was in, my father hardly ever missed

  • a day of work, because he was determined

  • to give me and my brother a better life.

  • And every day, like so many of you,

  • I felt the weight of my parents' sacrifices

  • on my shoulders.

  • Every day, I wanted to make them proud.

  • So while most American kids attend public schools

  • near their homes, when it was time

  • for me to attend high school, I took an exam and got into

  • a special public high school where I could

  • get a better education.

  • But the school was very far from my home,

  • so I had to get up early every morning and ride

  • a bus for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half

  • if the weather was bad.

  • And every afternoon, I'd ride that same bus back

  • home and then immediately start my homework,

  • often studying late into the night -- and sometimes

  • I would wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning

  • to study even more.

  • And it wasn't easy.

  • But whenever I got tired or discouraged,

  • I would just think about how hard my parents

  • were working for me.

  • And I would remember something my mother

  • always told me -- she said: "A good education

  • is something that no one can take away from you."

  • And when it was time for me to apply to university,

  • I had many options, because in America,

  • there are many kinds of universities.

  • There are four-year universities.

  • There are two-year community colleges

  • which are less expensive.

  • There are universities where you take classes

  • at night while working during the day.

  • So you don't have to be a top student

  • to attend a university.

  • And even if your parents don't have much money

  • or you live in a tiny town in a rural area, in America,

  • you can still attend university.

  • And you can get scholarships and

  • government loans to help pay your tuition.

  • So I attended Princeton University

  • for my undergraduate degree, and I went

  • on to Harvard University for my graduate degree in law.

  • And with those degrees I was able to become

  • a lawyer at a large law firm, and then I worked

  • as an executive at a city hospital, and then

  • I was the director of an organization that helped

  • disadvantaged young people.

  • And my story isn't unusual in America.

  • Some of our most famous athletes,

  • like LeBron James, and artists, like the singer Janelle Monae,

  • came from struggling families like mine,

  • as do many business leaders -- like Howard Schultz.

  • He's the head of a company called Starbucks,

  • which many of you may have heard of.

  • When Mr. Schultz was a boy his father lost his job,

  • leaving their family destitute.

  • But Mr. Schultz worked hard.

  • He got a scholarship to a university, and eventually

  • built the largest coffeehouse company

  • in the world.

  • And then there's this other guy I know who was

  • raised by a single mother who sometimes struggled

  • to afford food for their family.

  • But like me, this guy got scholarships and loans

  • to attend universities.

  • He became a lawyer and a professor, and then

  • he was a state senator and then a national senator.

  • And then, he became

  • President of the United States.

  • This guy I'm talking about is my husband,

  • Barack Obama.

  • (applause)

  • These stories are the stories of so many

  • Americans, and of America itself.

  • Because in America, we believe that no matter

  • where you live or how much money your parents have,

  • or what race or religion or ethnicity you are, if

  • you work hard and believe in yourself, then you

  • should have a chance to succeed.

  • We also believe that everyone is equal,

  • and that we all have the right to say what we think

  • and worship as we choose, even when others don't like

  • what we say or don't always agree

  • with what we believe.

  • Now of course, living up to these ideals

  • isn't always easy.

  • And there have been times in our history where

  • we have fallen short.

  • Many decades ago, there were actually laws

  • in America that allowed discrimination against

  • black people like me, who are a minority

  • in the United States.

  • But over time, ordinary citizens decided

  • that those laws were unfair.

  • So they held peaceful protests and marches.

  • They called on government officials to change those

  • laws, and they voted to elect new officials

  • who shared their views.

  • And slowly but surely, America changed.

  • We got rid of those unjust laws.

  • And today, just 50 years later, my husband

  • and I are President and First Lady of the United States.

  • And that is really the story of America --

  • how over the course of our short history,

  • through so many trials and struggles, we have become more

  • equal, more inclusive, and more free.

  • And today in America, people of every race,

  • religion and ethnicity live together and work

  • together to build a better life for their

  • children and grandchildren.

  • And in the end, that deep yearning to leave

  • something better for those who come after us,

  • that is something we all truly share.

  • In fact, there's a Chinese saying that I love that

  • says, "To achieve true happiness,

  • help the next generation."

  • And like so many of your parents, my parents

  • sacrificed so much so that I could have opportunities

  • they never dreamed of.

  • And today, as a mother myself, I want even more

  • opportunities for my own daughters.

  • But of course, as I always tell my daughters,

  • with opportunities come obligations.

  • And that is true for all of you as well.

  • You all have the opportunity to receive

  • an education from this wonderful school,

  • and you all have an obligation to take the fullest advantage

  • of this opportunity.

  • And I know that's exactly what you all are doing.

  • You're winning prizes in math and science.

  • Here, you are staging musical performances

  • around the world.

  • You're volunteering in your communities.

  • And many of you are working hard

  • to get an education your parents never dreamed of.

  • So you all have so much to offer -- and that's a good

  • thing, because the world needs your talent.

  • The world needs your creativity and energy

  • more than ever before.

  • Because we face big challenges that know

  • no borders -- like improving the quality of our air

  • and water, ensuring that people have good jobs,

  • stopping the spread of disease.

  • And soon, it will all fall to all of you

  • to come together with people on every continent and solve

  • these problems together.