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First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at the 2010 George Washington University Commencement

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

“Keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging.”

First Lady Michelle Obama greets GWU graduate Zoe Petkanas, who won the school's student speaker competition, prior to giving the George Washington University commencement address on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. May 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

In the fall, the First Lady issued a challenge to George Washington University students, faculty, staff and trustees to perform 100,000 hours of community service, promising she’d speak at their graduation if they rose to it. They did and, as a woman of her word, Mrs. Obama delivered the commencement address to the Class of 2010 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

From digging neighbors out after “Snowmageddon” to restoring a local high school to running a clinic for those in need of medical aid to a host of global service projects – Mrs. Obama was impressed by what the George Washington University community did, but more, so how they did it. She asked that the graduates take on one more challenge:

So today, graduates, I have one more request to make of you, one more challenge, and that is: Keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging.

I’m asking you to take what you’ve learned here and embrace the full responsibilities that a degree from an institution like GW gives you. I’m asking your generation to be America’s face to the world. It will make the world safer, it will make America stronger, and it will make you more competitive.

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The First Lady continued, encouraging global engagement through the story of a young woman that she met during her visit to Mexico last month who traveled to Vietnam to volunteer with children on a whim:

She described her days there as very “unfair” and “difficult.” She said there were days there “that [made] us feel meaningless.” But she also said there were days “…where I felt I could change the world.” And that trip made her realize she wanted to be a doctor. And when she returned to Mexico, she enrolled in medical school. But her journey led her to an important pivot point in her life. She said, and these are her words, “I realized that this is my country. This is where I belong and this is my culture, where I need to help.”

You see, that young woman, she went halfway around the world before she found her way home. And I suspect that something has — like that has happened to many of you.

And through Davina Durgana’s story, a young woman graduating that day, whose simple mission trip to El Salvador inspired her to take up the cause of human trafficking when she came back:

She found an internship that allowed her to work on an anti-human trafficking campaign, and she’s going to pursue graduate studies in human rights next year at the Sorbonne.

And by the way, Davina, she also serves as a Big Sister to a young girl in Anacostia; she volunteers with wounded warriors at Walter Reed; she helped run a Girl Scouts troop where she encouraged underprivileged girls to get involved; she volunteers as an EMT at the busiest fire department in the D.C. area, and convinced other classmates to join her –- and, somehow, she found time to graduate!

In closing, The First Lady touched on the historical significance of the commencement location as a landmark of change in this country:

In the end, the simple act of opening your mind and engaging abroad –- whether it’s in the heart of campus or in the most remote villages -– can change your definition of what’s possible.

And more importantly, you can change ours. See, after all, it’s your generation that always has –- often from the very Mall where we’re sitting right now. I mean, just look around you. It was on this Mall where young people marched for women’s rights. It was on this Mall where young people marched for civil rights. It was on this Mall where young people marched for peace, for equality, for awareness.

Decade after decade, young Americans who loved their country; and loved its ideals; who knew that it stood for something larger in the world; came here to this spot to wade into the rushing currents of history because they believed that they could change its course.

And on a cold January morning last year, many of you came here to wade in yourselves. It was the day my husband took the oath of office as President of the United States. And that day, he pledged to seek a new era of American engagement, and he asked each of us to embrace anew our duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world.

Now, I’m not a President. I’m just a citizen. But as a citizen, I’m asking you, as graduates of this global institution, to seize those responsibilities gladly. I’m asking you to fully embrace your role in the next vital chapter of our history. I’m asking you to play your part.

And from what I’ve seen from your class, I have no doubt that you will. Look, we believe in you so deeply. So, your new challenge begins now –- and it’s one that doesn’t end after 100,000 hours.

Students from George Washington University celebrate during their commencement ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Sadly, as hopeful a day as it was for the thousands of George Washington students, the commencement began with a moment of silence for student Taylor Hubbard who died tragically the day before.  Read George Washington University President Steven Knapp’s statement at the University website.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama



Filed under Education, First Lady Michelle Obama, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized

First Lady Michelle Obama To Receive Honorary Degree and Speak at George Washington University

Posted by: Audiegrl

GW Community Completes More Than 100,000 Hours of Service Ahead of May 1 Deadline

First Lady Michelle Obama will be the keynote speaker at George Washington University Commencement on Sunday, May 16 on the National Mall. The University community matched Mrs. Obama’s 100,000 service hour challenge set forth at the beginning of this year.

A. James Clark, a business executive for one of the United States’ largest construction companies and Dave Brubeck, a renowned pianist and composer, will join First Lady Michelle Obama in receiving honorary degrees this spring during Commencement Weekend, a University spokeswoman said Wednesday. University President Steven Knapp said he believes each of the recipients will inspire graduates.

“All three of these distinguished individuals exemplify the University’s ideals of achievement, leadership and service,” Knapp said in a news release.

“Congratulations to The George Washington University on meeting the 100,000-hour service challenge,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “GW has demonstrated an amazing and ongoing commitment to public service. I look forward to addressing graduates on May 16. You’ve earned it!”

Michelle Obama will be the third First Lady in the history of the University to speak at GW’s Commencement and will address a crowd of approximately 25,000.

Over the last seven months, more than 3,800 GW students, faculty, staff and members of the Board of Trustees have tracked their time as they have helped many individuals through various community service projects throughout the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

“When we received the challenge from the First Lady, we knew there was no question that George Washington University students, faculty and staff would rise to that very exciting opportunity. But we had no idea we would reach the goal so far in advance of the May 1st deadline,” said GW President Steven Knapp. “Thanks to Mrs. Obama, service became the focus of school spirit for the entire academic year, pulling together the entire university community in a unique way.”

Students, faculty and staff completed a variety of service projects, including painting Habitat for Humanity homes with the First Lady in September; giving a make-over to a Washington, D.C. high school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; and spent winter and spring breaks to rebuild homes in New Orleans, comfort the sick in Ecuador, and provide educational assistance to Sudanese refugees in Nashville, just to name a few. Other students and members of faculty, staff and Board of Trustees donated their time on such activities as tackling rural and urban poverty, working with a local Brownie Troop and organizing a walk-a-thon to raise funds for the homeless.

“I am extremely proud of our student body and the rest of the GW community for their contributions towards meeting Mrs. Obama’s service challenge,” said GW Student Association President Julie Bindelglass. “As a representative of GW students, I know that many of us have committed ourselves to making public service part of our daily lives. We are thrilled to host the First Lady at our Commencement!”

While the GW community has completed the challenge, students, staff and faculty will continue participating in various service activities. Community service hours will be collected until the official service challenge deadline, May 1, 2010. The total hours achieved during the service challenge will be announced at the commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 16.

(Photos: GW senior Shakir Cannon-Moye and Student Association president Julie Bindelglass joined Mrs. Obama at a Habitat for Humanity
community service project on September 11, 2009)

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Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our brand new section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama


Filed under Education, First Lady Michelle Obama, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, Video/YouTube, Volunteerism