First Lady tells Chinese students to aim high
Michelle Obama tries tai chi moves with Chinese students at the Chengdu No.7 High School on March 25. Photo: Getty Images

US first lady Michelle Obama encouraged rural Chinese students to aim high and get a good education in a speech delivered via satellite to remote communities in southwestern China yesterday.

She gave basketball star LeBron James, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and herself as examples of people achieving success despite their modest backgrounds during a 15-minute presentation at the No. 7 High School in Chengdu capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

“Because in America, we believe that no matter where you live or how much money your parents have, or what race or religion or ethnicity you are, if you work hard and believe in yourself, then you should have a chance to succeed,” she said.

"We also believe that everyone is equal and that we all have the right to say what we think and worship as we choose," she said. 

Her speech, on the last leg of a six-day, three-city tour of China, was delivered to a stadium of 700 students as well as to 12,000 rural students through satellite-enabled distance-learning technology.

The high school in Chengdu — where most pupils go on to study at top Chinese universities or overseas — has a reputation for using technology to bring quality education to impoverished remote regions.

“You see, the truth is that I grew up like many of you,” the first lady said. “My mom, my dad, my brother and I, we lived in a tiny apartment in Chicago.

“My father worked at the local water plant and we didn’t have much money, but our little home was bursting with love.”

She said persevering was not easy. “But whenever I got tired or discouraged, I would just think about how hard my parents were working for me. And I would remember something my mother always told me. She said: ‘A good education is something that no one can take away from you.’”

The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session. She later watched a student demonstration of traditional tai chi and tried a few moves herself. 

Obama, who is travelling with her mother and daughters, is scheduled to eat at a Tibetan restaurant in Chengdu today, according to a White House itinerary. 
Beneficiaries of civil rights movement
The first lady also cited herself and President Obama as beneficiaries of the civil rights movement. 
"Over time, ordinary citizens decided that those laws were unfair," she said of the 1960s movement to denounce racial segregation in the United States and demand equal rights for African Americans. 
"So they held peaceful protests and marches. They called on government officials to change those laws and they voted to elect new officials who shared their views. 
"And slowly but surely, America changed," she said. "We got rid of those unjust laws. And today, just 50 years later, my husband and I are president and first lady of the United States." 

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