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First Lady Michelle Obama's Message to Teens: Work Hard and Believe in Yourself

She was speaking to a crowd of aspiring designers
First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards luncheon in the East Room of the White House, Sept. 13, 2011. Standing behind Mrs. Obama is Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Some of the nation’s leading design talents joined First Lady Michelle Obama today to help educate Washington DC teens about career opportunities in their field. The designers, who are being honored by the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum for their extraordinary contributions to design in 10 different categories, took part in a Teen Design Fair before attending a luncheon at the White House, which was hosted by Mrs. Obama.

During her remarks at the luncheon, the First Lady praised the winners for breathing “new life into our homes and our workplaces, the clothes we wear, the products we use every day, and even the most basic ways we process information.  A trip to the park is just a bit more refreshing.  A book or a chart more readable.”  She also addressed the aspiring designers in the room, and emphasized the hard work that goes into great design:

I want you young folks, and as you look around the room, understand that you see some of the sharpest minds alive, some of the most accomplished designers in the world.  But understand that none of these people came here ready-made -- all right?  They’re here today because they hatched an idea or they followed a dream -- and more importantly, they worked every day, they worked hard every day, to get here. 

So to the young people here, I want you to realize that you can share a meal with some of our nation’s greatest talent, you can walk on the same floors as Presidents and as heads of state. And if you work hard enough, if you believe in yourself, you can earn an award just like this in a few decades...   

The 2011 National Design Awards recipients are:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Matthew Carter
  • Design Mind: Steven Heller
  • Corporate and Institutional Achievement: Knoll
  • Architecture Design: Architecture Research Office
  • Communication Design: Rick Valicenti
  • Fashion Design: J. Mendel
  • Interaction Design: Ben Fry
  • Interior Design: Shelton, Mindel & Associates
  • Landscape Architecture: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
  • Product Design: Continuum