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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at Girls Mentoring Event in Denver, Colorado

2:17 P.M. MST

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you so much.  Well, if you didn't know why we chose Denver, why we chose the state of Colorado, Jeannie Ritter just gave you a sense of why we're here first.

I want to thank Jeannie for her friendship, for her passion, for her focus -- for those words of wisdom, because they really set in motion, you know, what we're asking from you as well as what we're willing to give.  So let's give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

You know, I am thrilled to be here.  It's a pleasure.  This is one of the things that I love to do most, is spending time with young people, particularly young girls with so much promise.  So I'm grateful to be in this room no just with you all, but with a group of extraordinary women who have volunteered their time.  Many of them -- all of them -- are incredibly busy women, but they've taken the time -- many have flown here just to be with you this afternoon and to spend time in your schools.

So we're grateful to you young people, as well as the mentors, for taking the time to come here today.

And just so that you have a sense of who these mentors are, they're Cabinet Secretaries, they're astronauts, they're scientists, they're actresses, they are activists, they're CEOs.  It's a little bit of everything going on here.  We have an astronaut, a former ambassador, an economist, a writer, and the president at large of this city's school board.  And they've all made history in some way, shape and form.  They've transformed lives and served their communities in a myriad of ways.

And they're here today because they want to share a bit of themselves with you.  Because I think all of us sort of feel that when we look at you we see a part of ourselves in each of you -- I know I do.  They're here because they believe in your potential and because they see what you can be, and they want to push that along in any way, shape or form.

Because the truth is the ladies who are mentors here that you see today, they didn't come here or get to this stage because of some magic.  And that's a point that I make every time that I talk to young people.  I want them to look at me not as the First Lady of the United States of America, but I want you to fist see me as Michelle Obama, the girl from the South Side of Chicago, who went to public schools, whose parents were working-class folks.  There is no magic to being here.  There's no secret trick to success.  And I think every single woman in this room would tell you that. 

There's no way that I could have known at your age that I would be standing here as First Lady.  But what I did know was that I wanted to make my family and my community proud.  I knew that I had to work hard -- probably harder than most; I knew that getting good grades and being involved, and standing up straight, and being confident was critical -- didn't know where it would lead me.  But that's true for every single woman in this room.  They haven't gotten here because of luck.  Many of them are like me -- kids from modest backgrounds, with very little networking or power behind them.

But what they all brought to their work was hard work and focus -- you know, a desire to stay a little later, putting in long hours.  And more importantly, not giving up because someone else doubted them.  Because each of us came across somebody in their lives who told us, "maybe not you," you know, "maybe you're not ready," "maybe you're not good enough."  But it's that ability to push beyond that and own your own confidence and keep moving through to your dreams.

You know, for each of us we've all failed, we've all made mistakes -- some really big mistakes, right?  But what we didn't do is let those mistakes shatter us and keep us from moving on to the next set of challenges.  That's something that you can learn from the women in this room.  And as the First Lady of this state says, it's in you; it is already in you, everything you need to be successful you own.  All you have to do is feel it, believe it, work very hard, and you can get there.

Another thing that I just want to mention is that mentoring isn't new.  And we're not launching this because somehow we're the first people in the world to think of mentoring.  There are organizations all across the country who do mentoring -- they do it every day in the lives of kids, and you don't have to be the First Lady or an actress to be a mentor.  The mentors in my life that had the most impact on me were people in my life immediately -- my mother, my grandmother, teachers, coaches.

And we want to highlight the notion that mentoring doesn’t have to be a big thing in a governor's mansion.  It's nice to be here, it's an excellent plus.  But people out there every day are mentoring and they can be mentors in the lives of girls all across this nation.  And hopefully this sheds light and encourages more women around the country to take one person by the hand.

More importantly, I want each of you to think about what you're going to give back.  The gift that we give to you, the thing that we ask is that whether you do it now -- which you can; at this age you can be a mentor to a younger child -- I tell my older daughter that, you are your baby sister's mentor, she is looking to you, she hangs on every word of this 11 year old.  But she has to understand that power.  And each of you have that power right now, today, to be a role model in somebody's life -- whether it's your little sister, or whether it's a cousin, or a neighbor.

But more importantly, when you get to be here, whatever that is -- whether it's a scientist or teacher or the next First Lady -- your task is to --

MRS. RITTER:  Or the governor.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Or the governor, or the President of the United States of America -- whatever that may be, whatever your goals are, we ask that you remember this day and that you think about who you're going to bring along with you when you get to this position; who are you going to think a out; who are you going to reach out to.

That's the only thing we're going to ask you, is that you take this experience and spread it to so many young girls who don't have the opportunity to be here, but they're looking and they're listening and they're wondering what happened.  Share with them.

That's all I want to ask of you.  We're thrilled to have you here.  We're already proud of you and we don't even know you completely.  But we know the power of young women -- and now all you have to do is prove us right.  Okay?

So now we're going to have some lunch, we're going to have a little fun and entertainment later on today.  And then we're going to launch out into the schools of this city and talk to more kids.

So I want to thank you all for being here.  And enjoy, and don't be shy.  All right?  All right.  (Applause.)

12:25 P.M. MST