First Lady Obama Encourages 'Reaching Higher'

BY DAVID STOKES

In a nationwide tour of "Back to School" rallies for the 2014-15 academic year, First Lady Michelle Obama last week came to Atlanta and the historic Booker T. Washington High School in southwest Atlanta to not only inspire and encourage students to stay in school and head toward post-secondary education of college, but also used her "prep" rally to have students remain vigilant and "always push and challenge yourselves to excel" for better opportunities in taking charge of your future."

During the 30-minute address to students in Washington High's auditorium at Martin Luther King, Jr. and White House drives, SW, on last Monday, Sept. 8, students were electrified while listening to the newly 50 year old first lady speak on the White House's "Reach Higher" initiative, for students to excel both in high school, as well as in college. "Everything you're doing right now (in high school) is critical to the rest of your life. Completing high school is just the beginning of your life's journey," Mrs. Obama said. A Princeton University graduate, Mrs. Obama cited to students how her oldest daughter, 16 year old Sasha, "is already studying for her SAT test on weekends" to ultimately take advantage of what life will have to offer upon her graduating from college, presumably in 2020. Mrs. Obama proclaimed, "Higher education is the best way to take charge of your future." While incorporating her daughters' studies with how students, in general, "should take advantage of the opportunity while in school," Mrs. Obama further stressed to Washington High's students that "taking advantage of all of your school's resources, along with showing up for school every day" is key to being a success, as well, overall, toward attending college. Additionally, she urged students to "stretch yourself and your mind by taking (advanced courses)" to prepare for life in adult years, which will "help set your course in life" upon "setting your course with your education" while in high school and secondary educational facility. "Take control of your life by making the options to become successful," Mrs. Obama urged.

"Always push and challenge yourselves to excel, even when it's hard and you think about giving up."

For Washington's juniors and seniors, in particular, the slender and fit first lady exclaimed, "Go visit college campuses to get excited on your road to college." Additionally, she warned that people who criticize individual's choices for college should be ignored: "In the midst of criticism by others," Mrs. Obama stated, "just continue to focus on getting a good education. Have that grit that's needed to succeed; have that fierce determination to get what's wanted for you and your family (while working to complete high school and college). Don't ever get discouraged—and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it." Bringing today's generation with those of yesteryear, i.e., Washington High graduate Martin Luther King, Jr. (class of '46) and school namesake Booker Taliferro Washington, the first lady reminded students of their "legacy" to assist in fulfilling personal hopes and dreams that elders worked and sacrificed "for you to have the choices you have today." She continued, "Dr. King walked these halls, as you do today, and worked hard to (ultimately) be accepted into Morehouse College (in 1946). They all worked hard and risked their lives for the chances you students have today to build better lives for you and your family. Don't miss out: you've got to work really hard to get the good education Dr. King and Booker T. Washington would want you to have." Mrs. Obama revealed earlier in the day that she chose to visit Washington High due to the school celebrating, this month on Sept. 24, its 90th anniversary. Washington High School, additionally, opened in the Fall of 1924 as the first public high school for African-Americans in Georgia. Furthermore, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen indicated, "We are excited that First Lady Obama and Education Secretary Duncan kicked off the education tour in Atlanta. It was a powerful moment to have Mrs. Obama remind students of the importance of coming to school every day. She is absolutely right, and that is the primary reason for our 'APS Day One: Be There' campaign. Attendance impacts student achievement, and we need students to come to school every day in order to prepare them for college and career success."

Two hours later at the MLK Recreation Center, several miles west of Washington High, at MLK, Jr. Dr. and I-285, Mrs. Obama appeared, during the 5 o'clock hour, with Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate of Georgia. The first lady appeared at the voter registration rally not only to 'stump' for Ms. Nunn but speak on the significantly important African-American vote for Election Day on November 8. Urging "how important it is" for African-Americans to go to the polls this Fall, "if the percentage of voters increased by just three percent in Georgia, there would be no doubt that we (will) be welcoming SENATOR Michelle Nunn and GOVERNOR Jason Carter into their (respective) offices in January," Mrs. Obama said to thunderous applause. "Let's keep getting fired up, for we must go out—and get out—the vote this Fall." Ms. Nunn, eldest daughter of retired Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, reiterated her longstanding campaign message of "much needed change in Washington, D.C. for all of the people" for an "effective and responsive" nation's Capitol for the citizenry. Although MLK Center's auditorium was supplanted with fans/voters of First Lady Obama, officials of the state Democratic Party were pleased and excited as well with her early evening visit. Beamed DuBose Porter, chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, "I am always ready to stand with the first lady; anytime—as most Georgians will do, too." Furthermore, during her address to voters at the MLK Rec Center, Mrs. Obama exclaimed, "If you think people who work 40-50 hours a week shouldn't have to live in poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth, if you don't want to have women's bosses making their decisions about their birth control, then you need to step up Georgia Democrats to get everyone you know out to vote in November," Mrs. Obama said. "That is what's at stake in these elections." (At presstime, according to a New York Times/CBS News/YouGov.com poll, "battleground" states indicate that Republican David Perdue, former Ga. Gov. Sonny Perdue's cousin, is leading candidate Michelle Nunn for the Senate seat, 47% to 41% (on Sept. 9). The poll shows, too, that the race between Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R-Gainesville) and Democratic contender state Sen. Jason Carter of Decatur to be "extremely tight." In her last comments last week at the voter registration rally prior to her nighttime return to the White House, Mrs. Obama exclaimed to Nunn supporters, "These races are going to be unbelievably tight. They could be won or lost by a few thousand—or even a few hundred—votes. That's just too tight; but here's the good news: We have all the votes we need right now to win these races, if we get folks registered and out to vote in November. The job is on us; it's all on us!"