US first lady says embrace similarities

Updated: 2014-03-25 23:52

By ZHANG YUNBI and HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu (China Daily)

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Obama shares story of her upbringing, tells students in Chengdu: ‘I grew up like you'

US first lady Michelle Obama impressed Chinese high school students on Tuesday with bittersweet stories from her school days, underscoring the importance of eliminating "misconceptions and stereotypes".

"It's easy to focus on our differences — how we speak different languages, eat different foods and observe different traditions," she said in a speech while visiting No 7 High School in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

In her first speech at a Chinese high school since her flight landed in Beijing on March 20, the first lady mentioned an experience she had before coming to China — a visit to Yu Ying School, a public school near the White House where all the students study Chinese and have visited the country.

The students there told her that before their China tour they had all kinds of misconceptions. "They thought they would see palaces and temples everywhere they went ... but instead they found massive cities filled with skyscrapers," Obama told the Chengdu group.

"I'm always struck by how much more we have in common. And that's been particularly true during my visit here in China. You see, the truth is that I grew up like many of you."

Education has been a key theme during the first lady's China tour. On Friday morning, Obama, her daughters Malia and Sasha and her mother, Marian Robinson, visited Second High School attached to Beijing Normal University, a model school in Beijing. And in a Saturday speech at Peking University, Obama campaigned for international students to study in the US.

At the high school in Chengdu, Obama expressed her appreciation for her parents' unswerving support — both spiritually and financially — for her education.

"I remember something my mother always told me — she said: ‘A good education is something that no one can take away from you.'"

Yang Enyue, 17, a senior at the school, said of the speech: "She elaborated on her struggles, and the story was inspiring. It made us empathize with her."

Obama recalled her days at a special public high school that provided a top education but was located far from her home.

"I had to get up early every morning and ride a bus for an hour, even longer in bad weather ... and sometimes I woke up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to study some more," she said.

After the speech, the first lady stepped into a classroom to interact with students more personally.

Wrapping up the meeting, Obama noted the excellence of the students and reminded them to think broadly.

"Education is more than learning words, numbers and memorizing things, taking tests and getting the scores," she said. "It is also about the experiences that you have."

Obama will conclude her seven-day China visit on Wednesday.

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