First Lady Michelle Obama & Women of Excellence

First Lady Michelle Obama & Women of Excellence Give Back
ESSENCE.COM Mar, 19, 2009

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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes guests to the Diplomatic Room in the White House on March 19 to celebrate “Women of Excellence,” an initiative that matched 21 women at the top of their game with Washington, D.C.-area schools. Those invited included (from left to right) choreographer/actress Debbie Allen, actress Tracee Ellis Ross, actress Phylicia Rashad, Google Vice-President Marissa Mayer, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, and singer Sheryl Crow.

“This was one of my dreams,” said Mrs. Obama. “Gathering an amazing group of women together, and going out, and talking to young girls around this country.”

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Mrs. Obama speaks to women leaders as White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, left, looks on.

“Our task is really simple,” she said to the crowd of women. “Our job is really to just share our stories, to make these kids understand that where we stand today is not an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination. Even when no one could have predicted it, many of us have forged a path to some amazing things.”

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“Even though they’ve got this wonderful image of the White House, they need to be reminded that we’re close and this isn’t a distant relationship,” said Mrs. Obama to (left to right) actress Kerry Washington, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers and actress Sarah Jones before dispatching them and several other women to speak to students at Washington, D.C., schools.

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Actress Kerry Washington was one of the women invited by the First Lady to celebrate Women’s History Month at the White House. Washington was assigned to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase School in Maryland, where she spoke to students about their career goals.

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Actress Alfre Woodard is seen in the Diplomatic Room of the White House as one of the 21 women who are joining the First Lady in speaking with students about their future endeavors. Woodard visited the Albert Einstein School in Maryland.

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Is that the Nanny? Yes, it is! Actress Fran Drescher, right, and musician Sheryl Crow, center, chat warmly with the First Lady. Crow spoke to students at the Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., while Drescher visited the Mt. Vernon School in Virginia.

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Before Mrs. Obama left to speak to students at Anacostia High School, she shared a word or two with R&B singer Alicia Keys, who posed as the First Lady in the most recent issue of Glamour magazine.

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The First Lady gives Alicia Keys a big hug for committing her entire day to speaking with the students at Dunbar High School. The students were told a “celebrity” was coming to visit them, but had no idea that Keys, actress Kerry Washington, actress Sarah Jones and a host of others were on their way.

“Today is a very inspiring day! Being in the company of not only the First Lady, but all these incredibly gifted women from so many fields and walks of life is like being a student myself!” said Keys. “The level of excitement and love is at an all time high and I’m honored to be a part of this!”

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Not to be left out, NASA astronaut Mae C. Jemison gets a hug from the First Lady before Jemison headed to the Woodrow Wilson High School to talk to their students about her career at NASA and being the first Black woman to go into space.

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Mrs. Obama reaches out to students during her visit to Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C. After the students introduced themselves, Mrs. Obama explained how they came to have this meeting with her.

“What I do know about all of you is that you’re here because somebody in your school thought that you had a lot of potential; that each of you have struggled with something, but you’ve overcome it and pushed to the next level. And for me that was important. I didn’t just want the kids who had already arrived, but the kids who were pushing to get to the next place,” she said.

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One of the students at Anacostia High School asked Mrs. Obama how did you get to where you are today? She replied, “I had somebody around me who helped me understand early on that hard work, discipline and the choices that I made in life were really the only things that defined me.”

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The First Lady hugs Truddie Dee Hawkins, a student at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.

The First Lady spoke to the students about how her daughters have to wake herself up every morning and prepare for school. She taught Truddie and the other students a lesson in ownership saying, “responsibility is something you practice, no matter what it’s like, you’re not going to wake up and just be happy about getting up at 5:45 A.M. No one is. I don’t like getting up that early. But I get up because I have to and it’s a part of being responsible.”

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