Michelle Obama

Introductory Remarks at a Town Hall in Belfast, Ireland

delivered 17 June 2013, Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Audio mp3 of Address


Good morning.  Oh, what an honor. Good morning, everyone.  First of all, let me thank Hannah for that very bold and wonderful introduction.  And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here today. 
It is such a pleasure to be here in Belfast.  And as you might imagine, whenever we travel to places like this or anywhere else in the world, we’ve got a pretty packed schedule.  We’re meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and First Ladies. We’re visiting historical sites and attending state dinners.  And my husband is spending hours trying to make progress on global issues from trade to international security. 
But wherever we go, no matter what’s on our plate, we always do our best to meet with young people just like all of you.  In fact, you all might just very well be some of the most important people that we talk to during our visits, because in just a couple of decades, you will be the ones in charge.  Yes, indeed. You’ll be the ones shaping our shared future with your passion and energy and ideas. 
So when I look around this room, I don’t just see a bunch of teenagers.  I see the people who will be moving our world forward in the years ahead.  And that’s why we wanted to be here today. 
Let me tell you, when I was your age, I never dreamed that I’d be standing here as First Lady of the United States.  And I know that my husband never thought he’d be President, either.  Neither of us grew up with much money.  Neither of my parents went to university.  Barack’s father left his family when Barack was just two years old.  He was raised by a single mom. 
And all along the way, there were plenty of people who doubted that kids like us had what it took to succeed -- people who told us not to hope for too much or set our sights too high. But Barack and I refused to let other people define us.  Instead, we held tight to those values we were raised with -- things like honesty, hard work, a commitment to our education.
We did our best to be open to others; to give everyone we met a fair shake, no matter who they were or where they came from.  And we soon realized that the more we lived by those values, the more we’d see them from other people in return.  We saw that when we reached out and listened to somebody else’s perspective, that person was more likely to listen to us.  If we treated a classmate with respect, they’d treat us well in return.
And that’s sort of how we became who we are today.  That’s how we learned what leadership really means.  It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone to explore new ideas.  It's about rising above old divisions.  It's about treating people the way you want to be treated in return.  
And as young people, you all are in a very powerful position to make some of those same choices yourselves.  You have the freedom of an open mind.  You have a fresh perspective that can help you find solutions to age-old problems.  And with today’s technology, you can connect with other young people from all over Northern Ireland and all around the world. 
So right now, you’ve got a choice to make.  You’ve got to decide how you’re going to use those advantages and opportunities to build the lives you dream of.  Because that decision will determine not only the kinds of people you’ll become, but also the kinds of communities you’ll live in, the kind of world we’ll all share together. 
And standing here with all of you today, I have never felt more optimistic, let me tell you.  Because time and again, I have seen young people like all of you choosing to work together, choosing to lift each other up, choosing to leave behind the conflicts and prejudices of the past and create a bright future for us all.
That’s what’s so powerful about your generation.  And again, that’s why we’re here today -- because we want you to know that we believe in each and every one of you.  That is exactly why we're here.  We believe that you all have the ability to make a mark on this world that will last for generations to come.  We are so proud of you.  We expect great things.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Original Text, Audio, Video Source: obamawhitehouse.archives.gov

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