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Remarks by the First Lady at an Irish Youth Performance of "Riverdance" in Dublin, Ireland

June 17, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: My goodness! (Applause.) That's wonderful! You did it! Oh, my goodness. (Applause.) Thank you all so much. It is good to be home. Yes, indeed. You all are amazing -- and you're pretty good-looking, too. (Laughter.)

I want to start by thanking Mrs. Kennedy -- well, that's -- (laughter) -- that's a whole different story, but -- Mrs. Kenny, Fionnuala, who has been such a wonderful friend. And for all the wonderful things she said about me, it is double. This woman is gracious and funny and warm and kind, and has just been truly open-armed to me. And it has meant so much to have her friendship and her hospitality, so I want us to give Mrs. Kenny a wonderful round of applause. (Applause.) She's one of the reasons why I came back as well.

I also want to thank Moya, as well as her husband John for welcoming us all to this very special performance of Riverdance. Let's give her a round of applause. (Applause.)

And of course, I have to recognize Mrs. Sabina Higgins, who I finally got the opportunity to meet in the flesh. And I am so grateful that you are here and for all that you have done for this country. Let's give her a round of applause. (Applause.)

And just a few other people that are here that I have to say hello to: America's Chargé d'Affaires here in Dublin, John Hennessey-Niland. Yes. You guys are good. Give everyone a hand. (Applause.) Two very special people to us -- our former Ambassador Dan Rooney, and his wonderful wife, Patricia -- they are here today, fortunately. (Applause.) And the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan is here, and we want to say hello and thank you -- (applause) -- as well as Denis and Caroline Desmond and everyone here at the Gaiety Theatre for hosting us here in this historic and beautiful space. It's kind of nice. (Applause.)

But most of all, I want to thank all you for being here. You know, kids, you guys, young people -- you guys have my heart. And I said this in Belfast earlier -- it's so true. (Laughter.) Look, my girls know -- I can embarrass them and love them to death -- but young people, you guys move me in ways that you don't even imagine. So it was so important for us that while we were here we got to do something with the young people here in Dublin. So thank you for such a warm welcome. You have made my family feel right at home in Ireland, and you guys are pretty awesome.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, too! (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Now, as Mrs. Kenny mentioned, I first experienced that warm feeling about two years ago, when my husband -- you know the guy -- President Obama and I visited this city as well as the lovely village of Moneygall, where my husband's ancestors come from -- and, again, yay to our students who are here; I got to see them backstage.

But everywhere we went we were welcomed with huge smiles and open arms -- and lots of rain, which we handled. (Laughter.) And when we left, we knew that our girls had to experience all of the warmth and beauty of this place for themselves. And that's why -- one of the reasons why we're here today.

Earlier today, as you heard, Malia and Sasha and I visited the Long Room at Trinity College. As you know -- I don't know if many of you have been there -- it's like Hogwarts, as Sasha pointed out. (Laughter.) It's a huge room with shelf after shelf full of books; a beautiful place, and I hope that all of you aspire to go there, if not study there, but just to go and experience what it's like to be surrounded by so much history and so much power. And the girls had a chance to explore those shelves and trace their Irish lineage, which was a very powerful thing to find out that these girls that were born on the South Side of Chicago can trace their roots back here to Ireland, way back to the 1600s. That was very powerful for me, as their mother, and hopefully it will be something that they cherish for the rest of their lives.

And now, we couldn't be more thrilled to see a live performance of Riverdance. We have never seen Riverdance live. This is our first time. How many people here -- their first time seeing it live? So very cool, right? Very cool.

This show has been performed more than 10,000 times. It's been seen by more than 23 million people in 45 countries on six different continents. And with all the dancing and singing and energy, it is such a perfect representation of Ireland itself, so it's no wonder that it has become such a worldwide phenomenon.

And there's a lesson that I hope that all of our young people here today will take away, and that is, here in Ireland, you all are surrounded by such a beautiful country -- and we're going to see some more of that tomorrow. You are supported by such wonderful families, and such strong communities and traditions. Those things -- just understand -- don't ever take those things for granted, because all of that gives you that strong foundation that you are going to need; a foundation that's going to allow you to become anything that you want to be -- because it really starts with family.

I am here because I came from a strong foundation, all the way in Chicago. And it has lifted me up -- my family, my community -- to be able to stand here today as First Lady of the United States. And you all can do the same thing -- whether that's here in Ireland or anywhere in the world, because you come from such an important and strong community.

So today, what I want you to do when the curtains come up after the performance, I hope that you will not only listen -- have listened to the songs and reveled in the dancing, but I also hope that you begin to allow your imaginations to run free. And what I mean by that is I want you all to think really big about who you want to be. I want your imaginations to soar high. Because right now, that's the only thing that stops you from doing whatever you want to be. It's the limit of your thinking.

So I want you to dream big. I hope you will dream about who you might become and where you might go. Because I know -- and this is the thing I tell my girls every day, they're so sick of it -- that if you work hard enough -- and it's all about hard work -- if you believe in yourself -- it is so true -- but more importantly, if you understand that the most important thing for you to do is to be able to pick yourself up when you fall -- because most of life is falling. And the real challenge is, how do you get back up? That's what you can do. And if you keep doing that, then you can make yourselves into anything you choose -- anything. And together, you can make your country stronger and you can make the world better for all of us.

So that's what I want you to keep in mind. I want you to take that away with you this summer. I want you to look at me and Barack and all these wonderful leaders and understand that we are you. We are just like you -- just kids who worked a little hard and dreamt pretty big, and got to do some wonderful things.

And when you get to that special place, I want you to understand it is your duty and your responsibility to give back to the community that made you who you are. So you never forget home, right? You never forget home. And what my girls are learning is that every day, their home gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It is no longer just the South Side of Chicago or Washington D.C., but it is Moneygall, it is Dublin -- it is the world. And that is true for you.

So keep working hard. Finish strong. I know you're not done with school -- two more weeks for many of you. Finish strong, and do great things. I can't wait to see who you all become.

Thank you. God bless. Let's see a great show. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at an Irish Youth Performance of "Riverdance" in Dublin, Ireland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320173

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