In a question and answer session at Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing, China, First Lady Michelle Obama said that sometimes one needs to do things she's uncomfortable with. She made the comments in response to a question about studying abroad.
"For me, I prefer to -- the relationship -- the commerce relationship between -- and the future. So in this program, I think I cannot only learn about the language, the American cultures, but also I can take some courses on this field. So in this way, I cannot promote myself on this field, but also, what is most important I think is to learn -- to understand -- to make a better understanding on the United States cultureand people. And I think it’s really important for people, especially young generation, to have some time to go abroad, to live and study there so in this way they can build a deeper understanding with each other," said a graduate student at Peking University.
The first lady responded, "Excellent. And one thing that you pointed out that I think it’s important to consider is not letting fear be your guide. Andthat’s oftentimes what holds many young people back from doing fabulous things.
Let’s take my husband, for example. He hasdragged me kicking and screaming into things that I wanted no parts of. (Laughter.) And a lot of it was because of fear -- the fear of making mistakes, the fear of not knowing, the fear of uncertainty, the fear of leaving your comfort zone.
And we’re living in a world where we can no longer afford to let fear keep us apart, because the truth -- what I have learned, coming from the background I come from -- I grew up in a little apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My parents didn’t get a chance to go to college, but they poured everything they had into me. And no one could have envisioned that a kid like me would be sitting here, having given a speech at Peking University as the First Lady of the United States.
But easily, fear could have blocked me at every turn. So I want all of the young people around the world to operate with the freedom that we have all fought for -- the freedom to explore the world, to learn about new cultures, to try hard things, to make mistakes. And I know parents want you to be perfect because we want you to be safe -- (laughter) -- but life is about making mistakes,and maybe saying the wrong thing at the wrong time,and learning that you recover from even some of your worst mistakes, so that that fear doesn’t keep you from being as excellent as you can be.
And that’s what I think study abroad -- it’s that first step of leaving your country, speaking another language, having it come out of your voice, your lips, and having someone here actually understand you. And you think, well, that wasn’t that bad.
So I want you -- first of all, I just want to applaud you all for being that brave, and for being a role model to other young people of what the world needs in you as leaders. So don’t be afraid. Start with your parents.
Michelle Obama is in China with her mother and daughters to talk about education.