Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at Savoy Elementary School

May 24, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, everyone! Oh, my goodness. You guys look good.

I have been waiting to come visit you guys for a long, long time -- ever since I experienced the wonderful performance of the Savoy Players, who have been to the White House. And I said to myself, I have got to go to this school. I've got to see what's going on at this school. And today, my dream has come true. I'm here with all of you, and it's so exciting. Thank you so much for having me. (Applause.) Yay to you!

I want to start by thanking Anton for that very moving introduction, and for that first-time shout out. I love having my first-time shout out. And of course, I want to thank Principal Pope for his outstanding leadership here at this school. I mean, you can tell that there's not just a great education going on here, but there's a whole lot of love. And that is true not just for the principal, but for every single one of the adults -- our teachers, our administrators. You can tell; you can walk into a building and know that there is love in the air.

And so we are grateful to all of you for the sacrifices that you make, for the commitment that you make, for caring, for the outstanding work that you all do. We are so proud of you all. Thank you. (Applause.)

And I have to, of course, recognize my dear friend, Kerry Washington, who -- just let me tell you -- you guys know, Kerry is a big-time star right now. Big time. (Applause.) I mean, there is no bigger star right now than Kerry. It's just true. It's a fact.

But see, the beauty of Kerry -- and there is not -- she's not just a beautiful, fashionable, talented woman, but she's real inside, and there is beauty deep inside. The fact that she is flying all over the country but she comes to spend time with you guys, and she does it for real; the fact that she's taken time out of her schedule to come here today, it shows a level of respect for me, of course, and our friendship, but it shows more her love for all of you. So, Kerry, love you, girl. Keep it going. Very proud of you. (Applause.)

And I want to join in in thanking George Stevens, Margo Lion, and also Rachel Goslins, who is here too, as well, for all of your work that you're doing with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. (Applause.) You guys are awesome. Rachel, you are phenomenal. Love you guys. We are so grateful for everything that you've done.

And, of course, I just want to thank all the students here. Let me tell you, I got to spend a lot of time here this morning; I got to see some dancing, we did some freeze-dancing -- I still have my moves. (Laughter.) I got to see some great art and some sculpture -- yes, freeze dance. Just like this. (Laughter.)

But what is good to see is that every day here at Savoy, you all are seeing the connection that the arts and that academics subjects have with one another. And I'm here today because I want to -- really, students, I want to urge you guys to keep on working hard every single day. That's really all I can say.

You all are so blessed to have this school, but we want you to keep working and prepare yourselves for greatness. Because the truth is -- and this is important; I want you all to listen up -- no one is born smart. Do you understand that? No one is born smart. No one is born knowing how to read, right? No one is born knowing how to do math, or no one is born knowing how to play the flute -- all of that comes with a lot of hard work. And I know your teachers tell you that all the time.

It's not about what you know, it's about the effort that you put in, the amount of work that you're willing to do to get where you're going. And everyone has to work hard -- everyone does. I have to work hard, the President has to work hard, your teachers have to work hard. No one expects you to know how to read already. The only way you know how to read is that you keep trying.

And sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes you'll fail at something. But the important thing is, do you get back up when you fail? How many times do your teachers say that -- don't worry about getting it wrong, because the only way you learn it is to get it wrong so you can learn the answers.

So I want you guys to be free to try new things and not be afraid to fail -- because we have all failed. Do you know that? You're looking at the first -- I have failed at things. Things have been really hard for me at times. But all I had to do was keep going and keep working hard.

Kerry Washington -- I was just telling her -- well, you know Kerry from all the TV, acting that she's doing. She's a big star, right? Well that wasn't always the case. Kerry got a lot of rejections. She spent a lot of time developing her craft. She spent a lot of time practicing and working and trying out for things and having people tell her "no," "no thank you," "you're not good enough, you're not pretty enough." Could you imagine somebody telling Kerry that she wasn't pretty enough, she wasn't tall enough, she was too short? That's all performing is, is rejection.

But when you work hard and you invest thousands of hours in anything, you get better. And that's what you guys are learning here at Savoy. Hopefully you are learning that with your math, with your reading, with your dancing, with your singing, it's about the amount of effort that you want to put into anything.

So I want you guys to be fearless -- do you know what being fearless means? Not just being fearless -- just being cool -- I want you to be fearless learners. I want you to ask questions, take some risks. Don't be embarrassed when you don't know something. Don't be afraid to ask questions, okay? Do you understand that?


MRS. OBAMA: That's important. And I want you to keep working hard at everything you do, because we expect really big things from you guys. Do you know what that means? We want you to learn, and grow, and maybe go to college if that's right for you. We want you to be performers, but we also want you to be teachers and businessmen, maybe even the principal of a school

-- maybe even the President of the United States. That's what we expect from you guys, okay?

But just know that you have a lot of people who love you -- including me. I am so impressed by all of you. I'm impressed by your school. I'm impressed by the improvements that you have made. I'm impressed by your teachers, and the life and the love that is in this school. I want you all to hold onto that every single day. Hold onto that love that you're feeling, because a lot of people love you, including the President of the United States and the First Lady. We care about you guys so much, okay?

So keep making us proud. And I'm really excited to see what kind of performances we have. I hear somebody special is going to perform too. So I'm going to stop talking so we can get to the fun, okay?

Thank you for having me here. Love you guys. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at Savoy Elementary School Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320160

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