Remarks by the First Lady at Brazilian Youth Cultural Event

Brasilia, Brazil–(ENEWSPF)–March 19, 2011 – 11:40 A.M. Brazil Time

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, thank you.  Very good.  (Laughter.) 

Well, hello, everybody.  Bom Dia.  (Laughter.)  Is that it?  (Applause.)  That’s all I have, unfortunately.  (Laughter.)

But thank you so much for the warm welcome.  And I want to thank Racquel for that wonderful introduction.  I mean, she is just a point of pride for young people, for this country, for the world.  Let’s give her another round of applause.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank and recognize Tania Cooper Patriota, who is here with us, as well as Guisela Shannon for being here today and for serving as our MC. 

I’m not going to talk long because I want to see all that you have to offer, and I want my girls, my family, my mom and the girls’ godmother to see all that this country has to offer.  

But President Obama and I, we are honored to be here in Brazil and to re-affirm the friendship and the partnership between our two nations.  And we’re especially thrilled to have our family with us.  It is a very rare opportunity that we get to travel together.  Usually when the President and I travel, these two are in school — where they need to be.  (Laughter.)  But they’re on break now, so they get to come, and they’ve been very excited.  So it’s a real honor and a privilege for us to have them and for you all to welcome them. 

Over the last couple of years, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to travel all around the world and to meet some pretty amazing people along the way.  And wherever we go, one of our favorite things to do is to visit with young people like all of you.  Both of us make it a point to put that in our busy schedules. 

The United States and Brazil are two of the largest economies and two of the largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere.  But we have always believed that the future of both our nations depends on more than just relationships between presidents and prime ministers.  It depends on relationships between our people, and especially between our young people.

That’s where communication is really going to happen.  It’s going to happen with all of you.  And that’s why I’ve always believed that it’s important for young people everywhere to build those friendships around the world, to learn different languages.  Don’t be like me and not know — I only know “butterfly” in one language — (laughter) — and that’s it.  So Malia and Sasha, you got to learn “butterfly” in at least 20 languages, okay?  (Laughter.)  But to learn different languages and to experience what the world has to offer, it is so important to get out of your comfort zone and travel the world.

And that’s what I’ve encouraged young people in America to do, as often as I can.  That’s why I talk to them about thinking about studying abroad, taking opportunities to travel wherever they can.  And not everyone in the United States can afford to do it, but I push them to think about seeing themselves as citizens of the world.

And that’s why I’m pleased that so many of you here today have participated in exchange programs with the United States, and even more of you are thinking about doing that in the future.  And I hope you do.

Last year at the White House I had the opportunity to welcome a group of your peers who were participating in the U.S. State Department’s Youth Ambassadors Program.  And I know some of you guys are here.  I remember faces, not every name, but I definitely remember we had a good conversation.  You all were bright and not shy, which was good.  No one was shy.  And it was just wonderful to have them in the White House, sharing stories and just sharing their ideas.  It was really a wonderful gift for me to have you there.

So they came to my neighborhood, and I promised that I was going to come to your neighborhood.  And I’m here, as I promised.  I’m here in your neighborhood.  (Laughter.) 

So this is also a special visit for me because it wasn’t so long ago that I was sitting where you all were — not here, but somewhere in my life like you, I was young once, long time ago.  (Laughter.) 

Like many of you, growing up, my family wasn’t rich.  My parents are some of the smartest people I know, but they didn’t get to finish college.  They didn’t get the opportunities that I had.  We didn’t have a lot of money.  We lived in a little bitty apartment.  Sometimes it’s amazing how small that apartment was.  My brother and I shared a room.

But what we had was a lot of love.  We were always surrounded, my brother and I, by people who loved us deeply, who made us laugh, and who always reminded us just how smart and how special we were. 

And they taught us that the most important thing was an education.  So I knew I had to work hard.  I knew I had to study and I had to stay focused, just like so many of you are, in order to reach my dreams.  There was nothing that guaranteed in my life that I would be the First Lady of the United States of America or that I would be here talking to you all today.

I made my share of mistakes along the way, but when I did I always picked myself up and I dusted myself off and I moved forward. 

And President Obama’s life story is very similar to so many of yours and mine.  He did not grow up with a lot of wealth.  He wasn’t the best student.  He’s smart now, but it took him a while to get there.  (Laughter.) 

But I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you’re willing to dream big, gigantic dreams and really work hard to reach them, and also to take some risk along the way.  And if you do that, the important thing for you to know is that anything is possible.

I want you all to look at me and see that anything is possible.  That’s why I’m here.  That’s why I’ve come to talk to you all, because there is no reason why you can’t be here.  No reason at all.

So I hope that you all will keep pushing yourselves.  I hope that you all will keep pushing one another.  I hope that you all continue to work as a community, you support each other, that you encourage each other, that you’re each other’s way to reach up. 

And when you do that, when you get where you’re going, even now I want you all to look back and reach back and pull somebody else up along the way.  That’s what I think I’m doing.  I feel it is my obligation not just to be here but to make sure that there are other young people like me all over the world who I’m helping to pull up — and that’s your job, as well.

So I am looking forward to seeing what all of you have to offer.  The world is going to be watching.  We need energetic, smart young people to fix the problems in the world.  And that’s going to be all of you one day soon.  But you are more than ready, more than prepared.  So I’m excited about what you will show the world in the years to come.

So thank you all so much.  Thank you for being here.  Thank you for sharing so much.  And show me some stuff!  (Laughter.)  Show me some dancing!  What are we going to see next?

You all, thank you so much.  (Applause.)

11:48 A.M. Brazil Time