Michelle Obama promotes mentoring in Motown

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by Mike Householder
Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP)—The nation’s mentor-in-chief landed in Detroit on May 26 for a rousing, campaign-style rally at a college football stadium where she exhorted thousands of students to study hard, get plugged into their communities and become the leaders of their generation.

“Look, young folks, there is so much in life that you can’t control,” first lady Michelle Obama said. “But these are the things you can.”

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MENTOR-IN-CHIEF—First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a White House youth leadership and mentoring event at Wayne State University in Detroit, May 26.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something,” the first lady said during the event at Wayne State University. “You tell them what? ‘Yes we can!’ That’s what you tell them.”

Later, Obama hosted a lunch at the Detroit Institute of Arts in which about two dozen “celebrity mentors” were paired with groups of high school students from across the region.

Both events were part of Obama’s push for more mentoring experiences for young people across the nation.

“When I look at you, I see me,” Obama told the 250 students seated at round tables with one mentor per table.

Among those on hand to meet the students were a pair of NBA legends, businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; film director Spike Lee; U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and ex-University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr.

Also in attendance was Dan Mulhern, husband of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Mulhern is active in Mentor Michigan, which oversees more than 200 state mentoring programs. Obama said Michigan’s mentoring initiative is a model for rest of the nation.

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YES YOU CAN!—First lady Michelle Obama talks to a student after speaking at a White House youth leadership and mentoring event at Wayne State University in Detroit, May 26.

“The big goal is to encourage more caring adults to step up” and become mentors, Obama said at the lunch held in the ornate Great Hall of the DIA.

The shiny floors and air conditioning at the museum were in sharp contrast with the scene at Wayne State, where the sun beat down on the thousands who packed the Adams Field stands on a sweltering, cloudless day.

Several people were seen being attended to by emergency medical technicians, and one person was taken in a stretcher down the stadium’s steps by EMTs as Granholm addressed the crowd.

“I want to thank all the students … for being out in the heat, for standing, for sweating,” Obama said. “Some of you, I know you’re fainting a little bit. Get some water, but we’re here together. It is beautiful.”

Earlier in the morning, a panel of high-profile mentors answered questions sent in by students.

Johnson hosted the Q&A session, which also featured Lee, former “American Idol” contestant Kimberley Locke and U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.

“Don’t let anybody stop your dreams,” Johnson told the students.

The first lady was introduced by high school senior Cherry Tolbert, who likened growing up in Detroit to Obama’s childhood on the Chicago’s South Side. Both “faced landscapes which reflect great economic disparity,” she said.

“I could not always see a bright future,” added Tolbert, who will study next year at the University of Michigan.

But a bright future is exactly what Obama said she wants for everybody who came out to see her last week.

Her advice on how to achieve it: “Keep focusing on your education. That is your job,” she said. “Not playing video games, not shooting hoops, not dropping beats, not talking about how you’re going to make it big.”

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