First Lady Michelle Obama told college-bound students President Obama “works all the time” and never takes off, adding that young people have to embrace the reality that success is not easy.
“I’ve gone to the best schools. My kids go to good schools and I’m telling you, folks, work hard. You know, people are going to class, they’re doing their homework, and they’re studying for their SATs. When they get to college, they don’t play; they don’t think it’s a joke. They know why they are there. So if anything, they have the advantage of understanding that success is hard work because maybe they have seen their parents get up everyday to go to jobs and travel, you know, and make sacrifices for the money that they make,” the first lady said at the White House’s Beating the Odds Summit.
“If it’s too easy than you are probably not working hard enough. I am where I am. Barack is where he is because let me tell you this president works hard. You know, he works hard. He works all the time. He is always reading. He is always writing. He is never off. Success is not easy so you’ve got to embrace that reality and then not think that if you stumble that somehow it’s over. Everybody up here knows that failure is a necessary part of growth and success,” she added.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, rapper Wale, E! News co-host Terrence Jenkins and Brown University senior Manuel Contreras also participated in the panel discussion.
As of March 2015, former President George W. Bush had reportedly taken more vacation days than President Obama. According to the Washington Examiner, most of Bush’s vacation time was spent at his personal ranch in Crawford, Texas, while the Obamas typically visit Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard. Some Republicans have been critical of the cost of the Obamas vacations. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the Obamas’ Hawaii vacations from the past 3 years have cost taxpayers $15.5 million.
President Obama told the students at the summit the event was held to remind them to work hard despite inequality, sexism and racism.
“The intention here at Beating the Odds Summit is just to remind all of us that even when times look tough and even though there are very real frustrations out there in terms of inequality and racism and there are barriers that are put in place that need to be torn down but haven’t gotten torn down yet, and sexism, and folks who are bullying our LGBT brothers and sisters. Even though those are real problems, this is still a nation of opportunity,” Obama said.
“When we see young people like you, we want to make sure that you are mindful of these problems, that hopefully you will work together in a unified fashion to make even more progress, that you don’t ignore these issues, but that you also have confidence that if you are willing to work hard and if you are willing to dig deep, and if you’re willing to make sacrifices, and if you’re willing to embrace the values that are best in us, there’s nothing that’s going to stop you,” he added.
Obama said there has never been a time in human history where there is “more possibility” than the present.
“Hopefully this summit has given you some sense of the possibilities and also hopefully it’s given you some relationships and some networks that you can now tap because not only do I expect out of you individual success, but I also expect you to work together to bring about some collective success,” Obama said.
“Don’t buy into the notion that your life’s purpose is just about you, because there are a lot of folks who had even less advantages than you did, and you’ve got to be willing to reach back and bring them along.”
Rapper Wale performed his songs “LoveHate Thing” and “The White Shoes” after the president’s speech.