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Michelle Obama: High School Diploma Not Enough

It may be a few years before the first daughters head to college, but Michelle Obama is already brainstorming a dorm room checklist while encouraging high school students to dream big about their education beyond graduation.

First lady Michelle Obama speaks about children eating healthy food in schools during an event in the East Room of the White House
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

The first lady told a group of students Thursday that a high school diploma is not enough in today’s global economy.

“No longer is high school the bar. That is not enough,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd. “You have got to go to college or get some kind of professional training.”

Before her remarks, the first lady toured a Howard University residence hall with high school juniors and seniors from her hometown of Chicago. “How do you get a single room,” Mrs. Obama asked the tour guide, as the students chuckled. He replied: “There is a slight price difference.”

The campus visit is a part of Mrs. Obama’s push to promote higher education, especially President Barack Obama’s “North Star” goal. By 2020, America would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

After the tour, the first lady led a discussion moderated by rapper and TV host Bow Wow in a university cafeteria, the Punch Out. Mrs. Obama shared her own college experience and said she wanted to support the high school students because “this transition– for some of you– may be a little scary.”

“The only reason I saw a dorm was because I visited my brother once when he was in college,” she said. “That was the only exposure.”

Mrs. Obama added that she had applied to Howard, “one of the finest universities in the country,” along with Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison when she was considering higher education. She went on to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

“We have to have a hunger for education like we had when our parents and grandparents were fighting for us to have a right to come to these schools and get the education,” she said. “So now it’s up to you all to take that baton and do the very best you can with it.”

The high school students will also attend classes with their hosts and meet with university officials as part of their four-day visit.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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