Friday (May 5), Former First Lady Michelle Obama spread wisdom and hope at an NYC celebration of the fourth annual National College Signing Day, an event that she started in 2014 as a part of Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives.
Partnered with MTV, over 1300 National College Signing Day celebrations took place across the nation last week. This was Mrs. Obama’s first time hosting the event since leaving the White House, but she was quick to reassure the students that her passions haven’t changed.
“My presence here today is no accident because I might not live in the White House anymore, but Barack and I are going to keep on celebrating you all and supporting you and lifting you up no matter what house we live in,” she says.Rocking a gray Princeton tee to represent her undergraduate alma mater, the Harvard Law School graduate retold the story of her humble beginnings on the South Side of Chicago, and encouraged the young leaders in the audience to push back against discouragement and doubt by finding a sense of community and support systems while on campus. She also stressed the importance of prioritizing education.
“We gotta celebrate students going to college bigger than we celebrate the Final Four or the Super Bowl,” she said. “This is important. The number of acceptance letters you get should be more important than the number of followers you have on social media.”
Master of Ceremonies and current Howard University student Nick Cannon kept the crowd hyped from beginning to end with the aid of nearly two dozen celebrities, professional athletes and inspirational influencers.
Jidenna, Andra Day, Robin Roberts, Soledad O’Brien, Tamron Hall, Charlamagne Tha God and Questlove were among the parade of famous faces who offered the crowd of students congratulations and wise words. “You have to put yourself in the position for great things, and it’s all about an attitude of gratitude,” ABC’s Roberts advised the group.
Former teacher and Stanford University alum Jidenna borrowed his father’s heavy Nigerian accent to share one of his favorite adage: “If you want to be remembered, you have to be the first, the best or the last because no one remembers anyone in between,” he said.
This celebration of academic excellence would not have been complete without a showcase of young talent. Bliss, an all-female step team from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, brought the heat with their impressive rhythmic moves. Each of the 16 young women shared their collegiate plans with the audience, and even worked one of Mrs. Obama’s most famous quotes into their performance:
“When they go low/ We go high/ Raise our standards to the sky!”
Four students from local high schools were recognized by Obama for their outstanding academic and social contributions. They were each presented with a shirt from their respective future colleges and universities. There was a notable theme of perseverance despite circumstances in each other scholars’ stories, with each being first generation college students and three coming from immigrant families.
The goal of the day was to help the audience of nearly 300 scholars put into perspective the magnitude of their accomplishments. The room was full of joy, pride and overwhelming support. Before the “forever first lady” left the stage, she cast one more vote of confidence onto each young person in the room.
“You’re gonna be the next leaders of tomorrow,” she says with a warm smile. “So don’t ever get discouraged. Remember this day… We need you, alright? And I couldn’t be more proud of you.”