Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Women's History Month Evening Event

March 19, 2009

MRS. OBAMA: Well, please sit -- sit, enjoy. Well, good evening, everyone, and welcome to the White House. Isn't this nice? (Laughter.) Welcome to the White House celebration of Women's History Month.

And tonight is a special night. This has been a special day for so many of us, but for me because I am joined by my mom and my two daughters, Malia and Sasha -- (applause) -- who never want to do anything with me. (Laughter.) But tonight they have joined me, along with their two friends, Isabella and Jessica, who are visiting us.

But these are women -- and little people -- that I admire -- (laughter) -- and I respect. And in many cases, they are the first in so many ways. They're the First Daughters today. And we're joined by many "firsts" here. All throughout this room are some pretty phenomenal women who have demonstrated what it means to be the first in so many ways. We've got the first woman to dunk a basketball in the WNBA. (Applause.) We have the first female 4-star general in the military, Generation Dunwoody. (Applause.) We have the first African American to earn an individual Olympic medal in women's gymnastics. (Applause.) We have the first woman of color to go into space. (Applause.) We have the first coach to bring three teams to the Final Four. (Applause.) The first African American woman to be the Ambassador to the United Nations. (Applause.) And then there's me, the First Lady. (Applause.) Which, believe it or not, I still find that hard to believe.

As I look around this room into the faces of the young women who have joined us today, I can't help but wonder who among us will we be the next "first." Something to think about, because you guys are future leaders of this nation. And we're counting on you. In so many ways, we're counting on you. So the question is: Are you ready? Are you ready, ladies?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we certainly think you are. And we were only able to invite some of you here, but there are millions of you across this country who are ready, who we are counting on. And tonight is your night. This is an evening which we hope you will use as an opportunity to network with each other, each other as young women, that you network with the great women who are sitting at your table, and that you spend some time asking them questions. Don't be shy. Poke and prod and figure out how they got to be where they are, and what you can do in your lives to get yourselves ready for that next step.

So you're here tonight also because your teachers and principals believe that you have that extra something special. Maybe it's because you've got great grades, or maybe because it's because you've excelled at a sport. Maybe it's because you're the first person to volunteer to help keep your community on track. Or maybe it's because they see potential in you and believe that something like this will give you that little bit of extra courage to keep you going.

Whatever the reason, you are each extraordinary in your own ways. Even you four -- (laughter) -- little extraordinary people. And tonight, we just want to say, go for it! Don't hesitate, don't act with fear, just go for it. Because as we sit here tonight, so many of us -- I know I do, I see a little bit of myself in all of you.

Many of us here didn't come to these positions with a whole lot of wealth and a whole lot of resources. I certainly didn't. Once day each of us in our own way figured out that our fate was in our own hands; the choices that we made about our lives would determine our destiny. We listened to our parents -- simple things. We listened to our teachers. We worked hard. We didn't skip class. We stayed out of trouble. We made certain choices. And then we worked even harder when somebody looked at us and doubted us -- told us what we couldn't do, who we couldn't be. Instead of treating that as a reason to quit, we chose it as a reason to push forward even harder. And with every little challenge and every little success, what we did was gain more confidence in everything that we did.

The women here tonight -- those famous and those not -- will tell you in their conversations that there is no magic dust that leads to success. It is something simple: hard work, determination, and belief in one's self. Simple. And as women, what we've learned along the way is that we've learned to, first of all, respect ourselves, first and foremost. And then we learned to respect each other as women, to treat each other with dignity and respect -- not as competition, but with love and admiration, each and every one of us as women. And then we learned to have respect for others, as well. And we want you to do the same thing as you move through life.

Last week, my husband, the President, Barack Obama, announced the formation of something special: the White House Council on Women and Girls. And the Council is designed to ensure that young women just like you have no limits on your dreams and no obstacles to your achievements. And the women in this room have removed many of those obstacles already. They've opened new doors, as the women who came before them did the same. So it's now up to you all to write the next chapter. Whether there's a Women Council, or whether there's a role model, or whether there's ever another dinner like this, you have everything you need to succeed right within you.

So we want you to believe in yourselves. That's something that we want to do, and we want you to remember that when you move on to that next level that your job is to do what you see happening here today. That's to reach back and find the person behind you who you can help pull up. When you go to college and go on to be the next scientist and the next President of the United States, always look back to your schools, your neighborhoods, your communities, your churches, your synagogues, your mosques, your families, and figure out how you're going to do the same for somebody else. Give them a boost, give them a pep talk, show them values -- to give them a clue on how to get where you are. That's all we ask of you.

So, know that we believe in you. Know that we love you deeply. Know that, as women here, the powerful women in this room who were willing to take the time out of their days to spend with you, that means that there's something special there already. So just grasp on it, keep working hard, and make us proud. And have fun at dinner. (Laughter.) Thank you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Women's History Month Evening Event Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320254

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