From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama left the glittering splendor of the White House on Thursday to visit one of the poorest neighborhoods in the capital to push, prod and inspire struggling high school students.
Her visit to a public school was the start of a star-studded career day organized by Mrs. Obama, who said she had long dreamed of gathering an “amazing group of women” to talk to young people.
On Thursday, the first lady and 21 other women — including the singers Sheryl Crow and Alicia Keys; the former astronaut Mae C. Jemison; Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody of the Army, the first female four-star general; the actor Alfre Woodard and the makeup maven Bobbi Brown — scattered to public and private schools across the region in honor of Women’s History Month.
First lady Michelle Obama and 21 other megawatt stars, billionaires, actresses, philanthropists and businesswomen met at the White House yesterday morning, where Obama told them their task was to go out to schools and share their life stories — real stories and real challenges — with students across the Washington area, and “make the kids understand where we stand is not an impossibility.”
Actresses hugged singers. And singers hugged actresses. There was Sheryl Crow in black jeans and black platforms chatting with WNBA star Lisa Leslie. Across the room, actress and choreographer Debbie Allen, in a white baseball cap, was talking with actress Alfre Woodard. Near the back, actress Phylicia Rashad spoke with Olympic medalist Dominique Dawes.
Singer Alicia Keys, in jeans and a blazer with broad blue stripes, stood in front of an oil painting of George Washington, talking with actress Fran Drescher. Oscar nominee Woodard helped cosmetics company founder Bobbi Brown with her earring.
Obama told those assembled that she had long envisioned an event like this, for which she would bring accomplished women together on one day to go to schools in the region and talk to kids — girls especially — to inspire them, to help them reach their goals. To dream big. To work hard.
Her office said planning for this event began in February to time it with Women’s History Month.
“The D.C. community, many of these schools need to see us,” [Obama] said. ” . . . Even though they’ve got this wonderful image of the White House, they need to be reminded that we are — we’re close, this isn’t a distant relationship; that they can imagine the people who live here and what goes on here, and that there’s a close connection between their lives and ours.”
Keys went to Dunbar High School with Gen. Ann Dunwoody, who broke the “brass ceiling” as the first woman to attain the rank of four-star general in the U.S. military.
The first lady headed in a black limousine to Anacostia High School, in a neighborhood that has been the scene of much violence over the years.
Later, the first lady hosted a dinner for 110 girls from local high schools as well for the luminaries, who were seated among the students. Deep purple flowers sat in shallow vases on the tables. Crow and Keys were both set to perform later in the evening. The first lady took the stage and spoke of all the firsts sitting in the room: the first woman to dunk a basketball in the WNBA, the first woman of color to go into space.
“The first African American woman to be the ambassador to the United Nations [Susan Rice]. And then there’s me, the first lady,” Obama said. “As I look around the room into the faces of the young women who joined us today, I can’t help but wonder who among us will be the next first.”