First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a rousing audience, of more than 1000 students at Howard University, on January 18, 2011, about President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative. Students welcomed her to a standing ovation as she entered Crampton Auditorium. Before the event, I spoke to students who spoke about First Lady Obama as their role model. Students from area schools, colleges and universities heard Mrs. Obama speak about the importance of study abroad.
The 100,000 Strong Initiative seeks to increase the number of diversity students studying in China. Mrs. Obama, in keeping it real, recognized that many minority students do not have the means to study abroad. She talked about how as a first generation college student, she focused on getting into college, staying in college and getting out with a degree. She didn’t focus on study abroad. But, today she urges students to take advantage of the “100,000 Strong Initiative” where China will support 10,000 scholarships for students. She stressed that “studying in countries like China isn’t only about your prospects in the global market…It’s about the friendships you make, the bonds of trust you establish and the image of America that you project to the rest of the world.” Million dollar pledges made by Caterpillar, Inc. and Citigroup and $100,000 pledges by Motorola Solutions Foundation and the US China Education Trust will advance the goals of American students who study in China by 2014. These pledges and scholarships will also help minority students and community college students.
Following Mrs. Obama’s remarks, a panel of students, who studied abroad in China, spoke on their experiences. Nicole Baden, a communications student at Howard University, fluent in Chinese, Spanish and Arabic spoke of the relationships she forged in China. David Marzban, a Pepperdine University student, who had no prior understanding of Chinese before embarking on his studies abroad, gave a humorous account of his experiences. He stressed that the Chinese youth are very similar to American youth. I spoke to students after the event who were keenly interested in the possibility of study abroad. More information about the Initiative is available on its web site.
Debbie Hines is a legal and political commentator. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.