UPDATED WITH TRANSCRIPT AT 2:26 P.M. EASTERN TIME
POOL REPORT, TRANSCRIPT AT THE JUMP
WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama visited a high school here Thursday, talking about her start in life on Chicago's South Side--never stepped foot at the University of Chicago because it "had nothing" to do with her-- and how she was told "you talk like a white girl" while growing up.
Mrs. Obama's visit was one of several her office coordinated on Thursday--drawing in female role models, including some celebrities-- as part of her National Women's History Month outreach to girls, to her new city, and her drive to make the White House more accessible.
Surprising 13 students at Southeast Washington's Anacostia High School,
She told them it's National Women's History Month, her background, her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago, working class family. She said she lived near the University of Chicago, but never set foot inside when she was growing up. "It was a fancy college, it had nothing to do with me."
Other high-profile women were dispatche to similiar events at other schools in the district and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, incuding, Sheryl Crow, Dominique Dawes, Alicia Keys, Debbie Allen, Penny Pritzker and Maggie Daley, wife of Chicago Mayor Daley.
The students were very interested in Mrs. Obama's life and lifestyle.
A student asked her who does her makeup. She said, "I do my own makeup," except for special occasions, according to the pool report.
The pool report continued, "She was asked about her clothes. She made a kind of "what, this old thing?" gesture. "This is just a little jacket and pants," she said. Of course, she looked fabulous. She was dressed in a black ensemble - black jacket, with skinny black belt, big black flower up to one side. Black skinny pants. Black patent flats. Hair down."
".......She told the kids, don't worry about what your friends say, or teachers who don't think you can do something. "Work hard, do your best."
She said: "I wanted an A, I wanted to be the person who had the right answers. People said, you talk like a white girl - I don't know what that means."
Michelle Obama welcomes female luminaries to White House, visits Anacostia High
Pool Report #1 3/19/09
Thirteen students from Southeast Washington's Anacostia High School have had a day they'll never forget.
They were told a "celebrity" would be visiting today, but not who. When those guys with the wires coming out of their ears began prowling the halls, they might have had a clue. But it wasn't until Michelle Obama entered the room (at 10:25 a.m.) that the 13 students (10 girls, 3 boys, all juniors and seniors, all African-American) saw their surprise visitor. Seated in a semi-circle, with an empty chair waiting for the FLOTUS, the students gasped when she walked in.
Like a basketball coach, Mrs. O patted some knees as she worked her way around the semi-circle, then when she reached the end of the line, the hugs started. First hug went to Truddie Dee Hawkins (yes, two "d's" in Truddie), then Brittany Charmaine Morris.
FLOTUS message of the day: set goals, achieve your dreams.
Official transcript TK (pls check all quotes below), but here are highlights of her interaction with students:
First, she told them to "ignore those people" (referring to your humble, unobstrusive poolers).
She asked them if they knew who she was. A few spoke up. She then introduced herself, "I'm Michelle Obama and I'm the First Lady of the United States." One girl said, "I think that's cool."
She told them it's National Women's History Month, then explalined her background, her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago, working class family. She said she lived near the University of Chicago, but never set foot inside when she was growing up. "It was a fancy college, it had nothing to do with me."
"Maybe there's a lotta kids who feel that way about the White House," she said, pointing out to the students that they live 10 minutes away from the seats of power - White House, Congress.
"I want to take off the veil and say, this is what's going on there, and eventually come see me in the White House."
She listed some of the high-profile women who have come to town for similar events at 4 four other DC Public High Schools, plus some schools in Maryland and Virginia. Some names: Sheryl Crow, Dominique Dawes, Alicia Keys, Debbie Allen.
She said the president was upset because he's in California and couldn't join her today. "He said, I wanna do what you're doing," she said.
"I have a more fun job than he does," she said.
She invited the students to engage in conversation. "Pretend they're not here," she said of your pool. "They're going to leave, then you can talk about whatever you want."
(Which we did do - that is, leave - after about 20 minutes, at which point the conversation continued.)
But first, the conversation:
Student: Do you have a normal home life?
MO: As normal as can be, with the Secret Service there.
She told them one of the girls is in school today, the other is off on a service project.
"My mother taught me that the most important thing is going to school, getting there on time, and doing my homework."
One of her daughters (presumably the one off on a service project) had to get up at 5:35 this morning and be outa the house by 6:30.
She pointed out that her girls have their own alarm clocks and have to get themselves up.
"Responsibility is something you practice."
Student: "My name is Katie (inaudible) and I admire you."
She engaged the boy sitting to her left, Marvin Grant Tucker, in conversation but he seemed painfully shy and would not look at her.
Another boy, Timothy Lowery, sitting on one end of the semi-circle, was less shy. He told her he's on the basketball team, but has a knee injury. One girl said, with awe, "the president's wife knows about your knee!"
FLOTUS told them why they had been selected for this visit: "Someone in your school thought you had a lot of potential. I didn't want to talk to kids who had already arrived, I wanted to talk to kids who are pushing to get to the next place."
She said hundreds of kids across the country are underestimated. ... "We wanna take that potential and push it to the next place."
Student: "What do you all do for fun?"
MO: "It's all kids stuff." She said she hasn't been to a grownup movie in a long time.
Student: What's it like having the Secret Service around?
MO: "They're good folks."
A student asked her who does her makeup. She said, "I do my own makeup," except for special occasions.
She was asked about her clothes. She made a kind of "what, this old thing?" gesture. "This is just a little jacket and pants," she said. Of course, she looked fabulous. She was dressed in a black ensemble - black jacket, with skinny black belt, big black flower up to one side. Black skinny pants. Black patent flats. Hair down.
She told the kids that you realize as you get older that who you are doesn't change with circumstances. She said that Barack Obama is the same man he was yesterday and a year ago and many years ago, or something to that effect.
Student: How did you get where are you?
MO: There was no magic. Parents working class, mother stayed home until I went to high school. Repeated some details of her background.
She told the kids, don't worry about what your friends say, or teachers who don't think you can do something. "Work hard, do your best."
She said: "I wanted an A, I wanted to be the person who had the right answers. People said, you talk like a white girl - I don't know what that means."
She talked about her brother, the basketball coach, who also has an MBA and worked for a while as an investment banker.
Student: How was the transition from high school to college.
MO: College is still about exploring. ... College is about growing and learning. "The transition was OK because the discipline was there."
"I hope you all think about college"
(According to FLOTUS press secretary Katie McCormick Lelyveld, at least a few of the seniors there have been accepted into college.)
She advised them "never be embarrassed to ask for help."
She called her "little one" - Sasha - "stubborn." She never wants to admit she doesn't know something, like how to do multiplication.
More talk about college and exploring options. Don't be a in a big rush to have children.
Pool was then led out to a room that houses the New Heights Teen Parent Program. For those not too familiar with DC, Anacostia High is one of the city's lower-performing schools, with regular violence and teenage parents in attendance. One of the signs on the wall listed baby supplies that can be acquired through the "Baby Bonus Bucks Redemption Program." There was also a sheet advertising the dates of the SATs.
Jocelyn Frye, FLOTUS's policy director, briefed the pool while we waited. Some direct quotes:
"One of the things she's spoken with all of us [about] is really reaching out to students who face challenges, not to necessarily, oh let's just touch the students who are doing the best. To visit schools that have challenges. But yet have a lotta opportunity and a lotta potential. And Anacostia was a place like that. There are other schools we could have gone to as well - where a lot of times students feel like people forget about them or don't really think that they have a lot of opportunity or potential. So we thought, well this a place to start."
"I thnk one of the things that happened when she went out to Mary's Center is a lot of students there were wondering, why are you here? And I think her point is that, don't think that we're so removed from you."
She wanted make sure the students know that "there was a time when we weren't all that different from you. So I thnk this is part of the education policy, in the sense that we want to make sure that every school has students in it that believe that they can accmplish whatever they want. And believe that high standards are not something that's removed from them."
Before the trip to Anacostia, the FLOTUS had a gathering w/refreshments (juice, coffee, pastries) in the White House's Diplomatic Reception Room for the assembled female luminaries. The women mingled, then when FLOTUS entered, she made remarks (see transcript). She said this was "one of her dreams" to hold an event like this in the White House, with the school visits to follow. "These girls are just going to be wowwed today," she said.
FLOTUS gave Fran "The Nanny" Drescher a big hug, and then the two chatted for quite some time. Ms. Drescher held Mrs. O's hands, and patted them as she made her points, though we couldn't hear what she was talking about. Alicia Keys also got a big hug from the FLOTUS.
Tonight the women reassemble at the White House for dinner and entertainment. Girls from area high schools will also be in attendance.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release March 19, 2009
ROUNDTABLE WITH THE FIRST LADY
AT WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH EVENT
Anacostia High School
10:21 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: You all excited?
MRS. OBAMA: So do I need to introduce myself?
MRS. OBAMA: Okay, okay, I will. (Laughter.) Well, my name is Michelle Obama, and I'm the First Lady of the United States of America.
Q Your husband is -- (inaudible).
MRS. OBAMA: You think he's cute? (Laughter.) I do, too. (Laughter.) Thank you.
So, we're spending the day -- we've got an amazing group of women. You brothers are lucky, because you just -- you got to sneak into this. But we're happy to have you. (Laughter.)
But today we're -- this month is National Women's History Month, and we've been doing a lot of really interesting things out of the White House. But one of the things that I always wanted to do, when I envisioned being the First Lady, is that I wanted to make sure that we spent a whole lot of time outside in the D.C. community -- because I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and I went to public schools, and my parents were working-class folks. We didn't have a ton of money.
And I lived right near the University of Chicago, which was one of the finest universities in the country. But I've never had a relationship with the University of Chicago. I never set foot on it. I didn't, get to attend any classes. I didn't walk on campus. And I think the assumption was, is that that place was different. It was a college, and it was a fancy college, and it didn't have anything to do with me. And I didn't think they wanted to have anything to do with me. So we never connected -- me and many kids like me in our community, and that big old institution.
Well, I sort of thought, well, if that was the case then, then maybe there are a lot of kids who feel that way about the White House, especially in D.C. You know, you're living 10 minutes away from the power of this nation and the world -- the White House, the Capitol, all those buildings. I know when I would come to visit, I would wonder what's going on in there.
And I wanted to be a part of opening the doors and taking off the veil and saying, this is what's going on there. And one of the best ways -- or most fun ways for me to do that is to come and see you all, and do as much as I can, and eventually have you guys come see me in the White House -- one of these days, soon.
So for Women's History Month, this -- today we've got some amazing women from around the country who have come here, and they're going to schools all across the area: Alicia Keys is here; Debbie Allen; Lisa Leslie; Dominique Dawes, the Olympic Gold medalist; Debra Lee; Phylicia Rashad; Sheryl Crow, a musician; I could go on and on. But all these women, when we called and said, "Would you come to D.C. and spend time in schools?" they said yes. And they flew here on their own, and they're spending time like I am with you all in schools all across this area.
So that's what we're doing today, and I've been looking forward to this, and I can tell you the President is upset because he's in California and I reminded him that today I was doing this. He was like, I want to do what you're doing. But I have the more fun job than he does.
So I'm here to talk, to answer any questions you guys have, to talk about sort of my upbringing, and what happened in my life that led me here, and pretty much to answer anything you guys want. And I know it's hard to ignore the cameras. They're not going to stay here the whole time, but pretend like they're not here. Eventually they'll leave and then, you know, we can talk about things that you might not feel comfortable talking about in front of them. But I'm excited to be here.
Q Me, too. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I'm excited to be here.
So I heard you all were a chatty crowd, that you all weren't shy. So I'm going to stop talking and let you guys --
Q Do you all still live like normal --
MRS. OBAMA: We still -- you know, as normal as it can be, living in the White House with Secret Service. But, you know, we have two little girls, and they get up and go to school everyday, which --
Q Why didn't they come?
MRS. OBAMA: Because they're at school. One's in school and one's doing a service project, so they're busy today. And we try not to pull them out of their routines. You know, even when we're doing something special, at least my mother taught me that there was nothing more important than going to school and going on time, and doing your homework. So even when we're doing something that's really special, if it's school, they don't miss school.
And they have to get up, set their alarms, get their own breakfasts, make up their beds, and put on their clothes, and get to school on time. Today my oldest daughter had to be out of the house by 6:30 a.m. She had to wake up on her own at 5:45 a.m., and she did.
And to me that's the kind of practice that I have been doing to get ready for college, right? I tell my kids, all that I'm teaching you in terms of this discipline, it's not because I care whether they make their beds, for example; it's because I know when it's time for them to go to college, that they have to have that discipline of knowing what it feels like to get up at 5:45 a.m. in the morning when you don't want to and you're tired, but you have to get to class, or you have to get something done.
Q Teaching them responsibility?
MRS. OBAMA: Teaching them responsibility, because responsibility is something you practice, no matter what it's like -- everything else. You're not going to wake up and just be happy about getting up at 5:45 a.m. No one is. I don't like getting up that early. But I get up because I have to and it's a part of being responsible.
So I really do -- my husband and I, we make sure that they live a very normal life, because I'm concerned about them being able to live a life outside, away from me. I don't want them to be so dependent. So we tried to have a normal life, as normal as we can.
Q So you know our names?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, I do. I want to -- all right, we'll start going around.
Q Well, my name is Brittany Morris.
MRS. OBAMA: What's your -- what year are you?
Q Oh, I'm in the 12th. I'm a senior.
MRS. OBAMA: You're a senior. Is the -- is everybody a senior in -- all right, well, we'll go around and I'll get everybody. All right, so?
Q My name is Truddie Hawkins. I admire you. (Laughter.)
Q My name is Kayla Watson and I'm a junior.
Q My name is Brittany Brown. I'm a junior.
Q My name is Renee Easterling. I'm a junior.
Q My name is Shanae Washington. I'm a senior.
Q (Inaudible) -- grade nine, but you get the idea --
MRS. OBAMA: And you're in grade nine now?
MRS. OBAMA: And what's your name?
MRS. OBAMA: Marvin. It's good to see you, Marvin.
Q Thank you.
MRS. OBAMA: Thanks for being here.
Q You're welcome.
MRS. OBAMA: All right.
Q My name is Tiara Chance and I'm in the 12th grade.
Q My name is Shaunice Reavis, and I'm in 12th.
Q Well, my name is Jerome Briscoe. I'm in the 12th.
Q I'm Tanicka Smith and I'm in the 12th.
Q I'm Ashleigh Cannon, and I'm in the 11th.
Q I'm Timothy Lowery. I'm 11th, and I play on the basketball team. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I heard you had a knee injury.
Q Yes. (Inaudible.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, I know a little bit about you all.
Q The President --
Q They're watching you. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we're watching you. (Laughter.) So when you don't do well in school, we see it, too. I know about your knee and I know about other things, too, so. (Laughter.)
Q What do you know about me? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: What I do know about all of you all is that you're here because somebody in your school thought that you -- that you had a lot of potential; that each of you have struggled with something, but you've overcome it, you've pushed to the next level. And for me that was important for me. I didn't just want to the kids who had already arrived, but kids who were pushing to get to the next place.
And it's important to know that people notice that effort. Even if you're not doing it perfectly, they know -- they notice when you're giving it a little more effort. And people reward that sometimes more than young people where it just comes naturally, where it's just good. That effort is what makes us proud and see the potential that you have.
So the most important thing about you is that. So that's why you're here, and that's why I'm excited to talk to you. I know that there are hundreds of kids like you across the country, who some people underestimate, right; some people assume can't -- because maybe you made a mistake or you have a little trouble with something, or something is not right at home, you know. But there are a whole lot of people out here like me and the women who have come to D.C. today who just want to take that potential and just push you forward to the next place.
So, tell me what are you thinking about? What's on your mind? What are you worrying about? What do you --
Q My mind just went --
MRS. OBAMA: Did you say it just went blank? Well, we've got time. You can recover. (Laughter.)
Q What do you do for fun?
MRS. OBAMA: What do we do for fun?
Q As a family, with your kids.
MRS. OBAMA: We do -- fun is different when you have kids. It's all kids stuff. It's like -- I haven't been to a grown-up movie in I don't know how long.
Q It's like you can't -- (inaudible) -- you've got to be followed by the Secret Service and --
MRS. OBAMA: Well, they're pretty good, you know. You know, they bring a lot of commotion, but they're all good, good folks, and they try to make it so that we can do whatever it is that we want to do.
But we didn't do anything before we were here. We were parents and, you know, I'd spend my time taking my kids to their activities, you know, making sure they get the stuff that they need to get done. We'll have friends over, you know, maybe we'll watch a movie, we'll go bowling, you know, stuff like that.
Q Do you put your own makeup every day?
MRS. OBAMA: Hmm?
Q You do your own makeup every day?
MRS. OBAMA: I didn't today because it was special. (Laughter.) But most of the time I do. When I do something special, I have somebody do my makeup, but I do my makeup on my own.
Q You pick your own clothes out?
MRS. OBAMA: I do. (Laughter.)
Q What you got on today?
Q That's cute.
MRS. OBAMA: This is just a little jacket, jacket and pants, nothing special --
Q You, like -- because you -- (inaudible) -- like you could go shopping all the time? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: You know, the thing about -- what you realize is, especially as you get older, who you are doesn't necessarily change with the circumstances. I mean, the things that have changed me happened through careers and experiences throughout my life. And, you know, you don't change overnight, you know. Barack Obama is the same man that he was the day before, a year before, five years before he became the President of the United States.
Q How did you get to where you are now?
MRS. OBAMA: You know, what I want you all to know is that -- and I say this a lot -- that there is no magic to being here, you know. When I introduce myself, I don't -- I try not to start with "the First Lady." I was joking when I came here.
But what I want people to know is that I -- my parents were working-class people. My father was a city worker. My mother stayed at home until I went to high school. I have an older brother. We didn't have a lot of money. We lived on the South Side of Chicago. I lived in the same house that my mother still lives in now, although she's with us, but same -- my same bedroom with the same stuff on the wall. I went to a public school in Chicago. I went to one of the better public schools, but my parents couldn't afford to send me to, you know, private schools.
And if I were to point to anything that was different, it was the fact that I had somebody around me who helped me understand early on that hard work, discipline and the choices that I made in life were really the only things that defined me. And I had a mother, for example, parents who told me, you don't worry about what anybody else thinks about you. You don't worry about the teacher that you think is not treating you fairly or what your friends are saying, you know; that all that matters is where you are and where you want to be, all right?
So what I always did was that I worked really hard. You know, I did focus in school. I did do my best. Getting good grades was always important to me, and it wasn't because my parents were hounding me or that they had the expectation. It was something that I wanted for myself. I wanted an A, you know, I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be the person who had the right answer. And I didn't care whether it was cool, because I remember there were kids around my neighborhood who would say, "Ooh, you talk funny, you talk like a white girl." I heard that growing up my whole life. I was like, I don't even know what that means, but you know what, I'm still getting my A.
You know, I've lived in a community where being smart wasn't necessarily the cool thing to be, you know. My brother was an athlete, he played basketball. He played in Europe, and he's now coaching Oregon State. But he went to Princeton to get an education; he went on to get his MBA. And he could have made choices about making basketball a bigger priority, but he always put education first. So when his career ran out of steam, and he had to create a job for himself, he could become an investment banker, which is what he did. Eventually he left to become a coach, but what we learned was making decisions that allowed us to keep as many options open for ourselves.
And those were choices that you made -- whether I got up and went to school on time. My mother said, "That's your choice. So if you don't do it -- don't do it for me, do it for yourself." And I would -- I heard that in my head every single day: I'm doing this for me, you know.
And I ran into people who doubted me, who didn't think I could do the things that they had expected. And I viewed that as a challenge, you know. I can tell you stories of teachers who would tell you, oh, you can't go to Princeton, or you're not smart enough to do this, or you can't make the honors society. I mean, I ran into people in my life who told me, you can't do it, you're not as smart as that person. And that never stopped me. That always made me push harder, because I was like, I'm going to prove you wrong.
Q What was it like, Michelle, on the transition then from high school to college? And did any of your goals change once you got there?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, the thing about college -- the thing that I would encourage you all to know is that college is still about exploring, you know. This whole notion that you should know what you want to be before you go to college is wrong. I mean, you won't really know what you want to be until you finish college and have worked a little bit. College is about growing and learning even more. The goal is that you want to get to college. You know, you don't have to know today that you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you know.
But the transition for me was okay because the discipline was there, you know. When you go to college -- and I hope you all think about college, if not right now then at some point, because a college education is like a high school diploma these days -- it keeps the doors open for you. But what you have to understand with college is college is all about discipline. It goes back to the lessons I'm teaching my girls. It's like, if you can't get up by yourself and get to class, no one cares. No one's going to be --
Q Your youngest one -- (inaudible)?
MRS. OBAMA: Hmm?
Q The youngest one -- (inaudible)?
MRS. OBAMA: The --
Q Your youngest one?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, yes. She's doing -- she's got an alarm clock.
Q So, what did you want to be when you got to college?
MRS. OBAMA: I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, because I went right to law school. But I practiced for a little bit and decided, I don't want to be a lawyer. So it wasn't until after I went to law school and practiced a little bit that I realized more and more that I wanted to do more things that had to deal with community service.
So that's one of the reasons why I say, you, you know, you want to have enough doors open so that as you learn more about yourself and the things that you care about, you will have not closed any doors. So you don't want to wake up at 28 and decide, you know what, I want to teach -- right? I love kids. But if you didn't go to college and you didn't finish and get a degree, you'll find that you'll be starting all over.
Now everything is open for you guys. You're just in high school. There's no decisions or things that you've done that change your life forever for the good or for the bad, right? If you've made some bad choices now, you can completely correct it. If you made great choices, you might trip a little bit, but this doesn't -- this period right here doesn't define you, right, completely. Right?
But the basics you have to have -- your willingness to work hard, and what I tell my kids is, ask for help. Never be embarrassed. I mean, this is when I'm having a conversation with my little one about, because she's a little stubborn, and she likes to be right all the time. And sometimes she will say she knows something that she doesn't even need to know. She's seven. I keep telling her, you're seven; you don't know how to multiply because you're seven. There are things she thinks she should know, and I'm just trying to teach her that you can learn anything if you ask for help. And never be embarrassed to ask for help.
Because that's all college is. College is being able to get up and discipline yourself and to get help when you need it and to work hard and not give up. Those are like basic concepts that carry you through life.
And college is not a hard thing. It isn't. You know, college is one of those things where you get four years to practice being an adult, right? If you get financial aid and you can get assistance on the financial piece, you're thinking about it, four years you're living in a community of other young people -- right, you know? All you have to do is study. That's it. You know, you'll have a handful of courses, you'll have five courses, right? Many of them you can pick on your own, right? And if you keep up with your homework and your studies and don't get behind, you have all this freedom to learn and to grow and to interact with other young people.
You don't get that after, you know. That's why I don't understand why kids want to rush and have kids and get married. It's like, it's nice if you're ready, but this is the time to explore. And that's why college is one of those things that I want young people to really want, you know, not view it as a burden, because it is really a privilege, and it just adds value, you know.
But you have to work now to get that, right? You have to take this part seriously enough to have the option for college, right? And even if you can't do it right away, you can do it later, right? You don't -- and college isn't something you have to do right away if you can't do it. You don't ever have to foreclose that option, right? But whatever you do, you've got to work hard at it, right? You've got to have some focus and some discipline, right?
END 10:43 A.M. EDT