Michelle Obama tells MLK graduates to chase dreams - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Michelle Obama tells MLK graduates to chase dreams

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated students at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School's graduation Saturday, in her only high school commencement speech this year.

"I know this is a very special school and a wonderfully accomplished class, from your band program to those three state track titles, to all the volunteering ... you all should be very proud," the First Lady said.

Michelle Obama said she attended a school on Chicago's south side that was similar to MLK Magnet.

"It challenged me and pushed me, " the First Lady explained.

"I remember that time very vividly, every paper. My whole identity was bound up in checking those boxes, winning every award. By the time I got to my high school graduation, I was at the top of my class. I was heading to Princeton in the fall. I thought I had everything I needed. But I learned I had it all wrong. The grades, the test scores, I realized when I got to college I needed an entirely new set of skills to get along. I want to talk to all of you about what lies ahead, and the importance of community, " Mrs. Obama said.

"Maybe you don't know anybody at the school you're heading to, but I want to know this about college: you can start with a clean slate. You will find friends who will challenge you and inspire you, and will be there for you when something goes wrong. Because inevitably something will go wrong."

The first lady explained students had to show grit when obstacles arose.

In her final point, Mrs. Obama said passion is also important for high school graduates to keep in mind as they move forward. "What makes me happy? I wanted to give back to the world around me."

"Do not waste a minute living someone else's dream. Each of us has unique gifts. I urge you to take classes - art history, web design - something you've never taken before," she said. "I really want you guys to be curious and take risks. And you get stuck, don't be afraid to veer off course and take your life in another direction."

Students clapped enthusiastically at the First Lady's comments.

The student body did a lot of preparation to get to this point.

"I still don't even believe it. It will have to sink in tomorrow, I guess, but we're all ecstatic," said valedictorian Lauren Brewer.

Students prep for first lady's visit

Prepping for a high school graduation is normally pretty routine, but when the first lady of the United States is your guest, there's added pressure to make sure the music, the lighting and everything else is top notch.

In rehearsal Friday, the Class of 2013 learned Mrs. Obama would also be handing them their diplomas and shaking their hands as they cross the stage at Tennessee State University's Gentry Center.

"So they will have a picture to keep for their lifetime with Michelle Obama," said MLK Principal Dr. Schunn Turner.

Mustapha Williams will introduce the first lady. He said he wrote the speech in 10 minutes and then got a few teachers to tweak it.

"The final revision I sent it to another teacher who sent it to the White House, because it had to be approved. And they made a couple of revisions, and then I had the final speech," Williams said.

Each student was given 20 graduation tickets, and some had tough choices to make on who to invite.

"My daughter was very intentional about who she wanted to give the tickets to. She wanted to make sure people were genuinely coming to see her graduate and not necessarily because the first lady of the United States was coming," said MLK parent Renee Booth.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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