PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Michelle Obama told thousands of college-bound Philadelphia high school seniors Wednesday about when she applied to universities. Her counselor advised her not to set her sights too high and warned that some of the schools on her list were out of her reach, the former first lady said.
“You guys ignored the haters, you buckled down, you focused, you surrounded yourselves with positive people and you believed in your ability to do whatever you put your mind to it and here you are today,” Obama told the students celebrating College Signing Day.
She did not heed her counselor’s words. Instead, she attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Decades later, she accompanied her husband to the White House for two terms.
“I know that you are me,” Obama told the crowd. “And if I can be standing here as your forever first lady, then you can do anything you put your mind to.”
The event held at Temple University was not always, or often, solemn and serious. After Obama shared her thoughts, she broke out her dance moves alongside actors Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Zendaya and Rebel Wilson as they all advocated for higher education.
The epithet, “forever first lady,” came from actor Nick Cannon, who along with other A-listers joined Obama at the fifth annual celebration. Obama started the initiative while in the White House to honor those students who are pursuing a higher education.
Obama closed the festivities, but a long list of known names preceded her. Karlie Kloss, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ciara, Camila Cabello, Malcolm Jenkins, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and other major entertainers and athletes lent their support to the college-bound students.
“College was the most incredible experience of my life. It is up to you — you are the future, we are counting on you, we depend on you,” said Philadelphia’s own Cooper.
Johnathan Phan, a first-generation college student headed to Temple, said he’s excited about the experience that wasn’t afforded to his parents and other relatives. He also seemed enthusiastic before Obama’s speech.
“I had a little crush on her when I was little,” Phan said.
Obama previously has hosted College Signing Day events in New York City, Detroit and San Antonio.
Across the United States, 2,000 other College Signing Day events celebrated high school seniors continuing their educations after graduation.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)