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  • The First Lady: (applause) Thank you.

  • Well, ni-hao.

  • (laughter) It is such a pleasure and an honor to

  • be here with all of you at this great university, so

  • thank you so much for having me.

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

  • and my husband, I just want to say a few very

  • brief words about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

  • As my husband has said, the United States

  • is offering as many resources as possible

  • to assist in the search.

  • And please know that we are keeping all of the

  • families and loved ones of those on this flight

  • in our thoughts and prayers at this

  • very difficult time.

  • Now with that, I want to start by recognizing our

  • new Ambassador to China, Ambassador Baucus;

  • President Wang; Chairman Zhu; Vice President Li;

  • Director Cueller; Professor Oi, and the

  • Stanford Center; President Sexton from New York

  • University, which is an excellent study abroad

  • program in Shanghai; and John Thornton,

  • Director of the Global Leadership Program

  • at Tsinghua University.

  • Thank you all for joining us.

  • But most of all, I want to thank all of the students

  • who are here today.

  • And I particularly want to thank Eric Schaefer

  • and Zhu Xuanhao for that extraordinary English

  • and Chinese introduction.

  • That was a powerful symbol of everything that

  • I want to talk with you about today.

  • See, by learning each other's languages,

  • and by showing such curiosity and respect for each other's

  • cultures, Mr. Schafer and Ms. Zhu

  • and all of you are building bridges of understanding that

  • will lead to so much more.

  • And I'm here today because I know that our future

  • depends on connections like these among

  • young people like you across the globe.

  • That's why when my husband and I travel abroad,

  • we don't just visit palaces and parliaments

  • and meet with heads of state.

  • We also come to schools like this one to meet

  • with students like you, because we believe that

  • relationships between nations aren't just about

  • relationships between governments or leaders --

  • they're about relationships between

  • people, particularly young people.

  • So we view study abroad programs not just

  • as an educational opportunity for students,

  • but also as a vital part of America's foreign policy.

  • Through the wonders of modern technology,

  • our world is more connected than ever before.

  • Ideas can cross oceans with the click

  • of a button.

  • Companies can do business and compete with companies

  • across the globe.

  • And we can text, email, Skype with people

  • on every continent.

  • So studying abroad isn't just a fun way to spend a

  • semester; it is quickly becoming the key to

  • success in our global economy.

  • Because getting ahead in today's workplaces isn't

  • just about getting good grades or test scores

  • in school, which are important.

  • It's also about having real experience with the

  • world beyond your borders -- experience with

  • languages, cultures and societies very different

  • from your own.

  • Or, as the Chinese saying goes: "It is better

  • to travel ten thousand miles than to read

  • ten thousand books."

  • But let's be clear, studying abroad is about

  • so much more than improving your own future.

  • It's also about shaping the future of your

  • countries and of the world we all share.

  • Because when it comes to the defining challenges

  • of our time -- whether it's climate change

  • or economic opportunity or the spread of nuclear weapons --

  • these are shared challenges.

  • And no one country can confront them alone.

  • The only way forward is together.

  • That's why it is so important for young people

  • like you to live and study in each other's countries,

  • because that's how you develop

  • that habit of cooperation.

  • You do it by immersing yourself in one another's

  • culture, by learning each other's stories,

  • by getting past the stereotypes

  • and misconceptions that too often divide us.

  • That's how you come to understand

  • how much we all share.

  • That's how you realize that we all have

  • a stake in each other's success -- that cures discovered here

  • in Beijing could save lives in America,

  • that clean energy technologies from Silicon Valley

  • in California could improve the environment here

  • in China, that the architecture

  • of an ancient temple in Xi'an could inspire the design

  • of new buildings in Dallas or Detroit.

  • And that's when the connections you make

  • as classmates or labmates can blossom

  • into something more.

  • That's what happened when Abigail Coplin became

  • an American Fulbright Scholar here at Peking University.

  • She and her colleagues published papers together

  • in top science journals, and they built research

  • partnerships that lasted long after they returned

  • to their home countries.

  • And Professor Niu Ke from Peking University

  • was a Fulbright Scholarship --

  • Scholar in the U.S. last year, and he reported -- and

  • this is a quote from him -- he said,

  • "The most memorable experiences were

  • with my American friends."

  • These lasting bonds represent the true value

  • of studying abroad.

  • And I am thrilled that more and more students

  • are getting this opportunity.

  • As you've heard, China is currently the fifth most

  • popular destination for Americans studying abroad,

  • and today, the highest number of exchange

  • students in the U.S.

  • are from China.

  • But still, too many students never have this

  • chance, and some that do are hesitant to take it.

  • They may feel like studying abroad is only

  • for wealthy students or students from certain

  • kinds of universities.

  • Or they may think to themselves, well,

  • that sounds fun but how will it be useful in my life?

  • And believe me, I understand where these

  • young people are coming from because

  • I felt the same way back when I was in college.

  • See, I came from a working-class family,

  • and it never occurred to me to study abroad -- never.

  • My parents didn't get a chance to attend college,

  • so I was focused on getting into a university,

  • earning my degree so that I could get a good job

  • to support myself and help my family.

  • And I know for a lot of young people like me who

  • are struggling to afford a regular semester

  • of school, paying for plane tickets or living expenses

  • halfway around the world just isn't possible.

  • And that's not acceptable, because study abroad

  • shouldn't just be for students

  • from certain backgrounds.

  • Our hope is to build connections between people

  • of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds,

  • because it is that diversity that truly will

  • change the face of our relationships.

  • So we believe that diversity makes our

  • country vibrant and strong.

  • And our study abroad programs should reflect

  • the true spirit of America to the world.

  • And that's why when my husband visited China

  • back in 2009, he announced the 100,000 Strong initiative

  • to increase the number and diversity

  • of American students studying in China.

  • And this year, as we mark the 35th anniversary

  • of the normalization of relationships between

  • our two countries,

  • the U.S. government actually supports more American

  • students in China than in any other country

  • in the world.

  • We are sending high school, college and

  • graduate students here to study Chinese.

  • We're inviting teachers from China

  • to teach Mandarin in American schools.

  • We're providing free online advising

  • for students in China who want to study

  • in the U.S. And the U.S.-China Fulbright program

  • is still going strong with more than 3,000 alumni.

  • And the private sector is stepping up as well.

  • For example, Steve Schwarzman, who is the

  • head of an American company called Blackstone,

  • is funding a new program at Tsinghua University

  • modeled on the Rhodes Scholarship.

  • And today, students from all kinds

  • of backgrounds are studying here in China.

  • Take the example of Royale Nicholson,

  • who's from Cleveland, Ohio.

  • She attends New York University's

  • program in Shanghai.

  • Now, like me, Royale is a first-generation

  • college student.

  • And her mother worked two full-time jobs while

  • her father worked nights to support their family.

  • And of her experience in Shanghai, Royale said --

  • and this is her quote -- she said,

  • "This city oozes persistence and inspires me to accomplish

  • all that I can."

  • And happy birthday, Royale.

  • It was her birthday yesterday.

  • (Laughter.)

  • And then there's Philmon Haile from

  • the University of Washington, whose family came

  • to the U.S. as refugees from Eritrea when he was a child.

  • And of his experience studying in China,

  • he said, "Study abroad is a powerful vehicle

  • for people-to-people exchange as we move into

  • a new era of citizen diplomacy."

  • "A new era of citizen diplomacy."

  • I could not have said it better myself, because

  • that's really what I'm talking about.

  • I am talking about ordinary citizens reaching

  • out to the world.

  • And as I always tell young people back in America,

  • you don't need to get on a plane

  • to be a citizen diplomat.

  • I tell them that if you have an Internet

  • connection in your home, school, or library, within

  • seconds you can be transported anywhere

  • in the world and meet people on every continent.

  • And that's why I'm posting a daily travel blog

  • with videos and photos of my experiences here in China,

  • because I want young people in America

  • to be part of this visit.

  • And that's really the power of technology --

  • how it can open up the entire world and expose

  • us to ideas and innovations we never could have imagined.

  • And that's why it's so important for information

  • and ideas to flow freely over the Internet

  • and through the media, because that's

  • how we discover the truth.

  • That's how we learn what's really happening

  • in our communities and our country and our world.

  • And that's how we decide which values and ideas

  • we think are best -- by questioning and debating

  • them vigorously, by listening to all sides

  • of an argument, and by judging for ourselves.

  • And believe me, I know how this can be a messy

  • and frustrating process.

  • My husband and I are on the receiving

  • end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media

  • and our fellow citizens.

  • And it's not always easy, but we wouldn't trade

  • it for anything in the world.

  • Because time and again, we have seen that

  • countries are stronger and more prosperous when

  • the voices of and opinions of all their citizens

  • can be heard.

  • And as my husband has said, we respect

  • the uniqueness of other cultures and societies,

  • but when it comes to expressing yourself freely

  • and worshipping as you choose and having open

  • access to information, we believe those universal

  • rights -- they are universal rights

  • that are the birthright of every person on this planet.

  • We believe that all people deserve the opportunity

  • to fulfill their highest potential as I was able

  • to do in the United States.

  • And as you learn about new cultures and form new

  • friendships during your time here in China

  • and in the United States, all of you are the living,

  • breathing embodiment of those values.

  • So I guarantee you that in studying abroad,

  • you're not just changing your own life, you are changing the