You go to school. You dream. You work hard. And then one day…you start your own business with a huge support team. Sound like wishful thinking? Not according to Michelle Obama who spoke to 300 college-bound high school seniors (mostly first-generation) at College Signing Day last week. The former FLOTUS started the star-studded affair four years ago, and has plans to continue “celebrating you all and supporting you and lifting you up no matter what house we live in,” she says.
The MTV-hosted event, held at The Public Theater, was emceed by Nick Cannon, and featuring appearances from Bella Hadid, Andy Cohen, Billy Eichner, Questlove, Donna Karan, Tamron Hall, Robin Roberts, and Soledad O’Brien, but Obama’s main message of finding a community to support and encourage you was the real highlight, and, best of all, it can easily apply to female entrepreneurs.
"Getting in was just the beginning, because there will be struggles. I certainly had my share of struggles," Obama said wearing a Princeton Tigers shirt from her alma mater. "You’re not supposed to go through this on your own. No one gets through college, or life, on their own."
"Don’t sit in your room alone. Do not stew or stir," she continued. "Go out and build your base of support… You cannot do this alone. I didn’t. No one on this stage did, and we are not expecting that from you."
And, there’s good news that women in business can learn from.
"Once you find that community — and you have to find your community in college, and it may take some time — you’re gonna get this thing,” she says. “You're gonna soar, and you’re gonna continue to make us proud."
Michelle Obama at the College Signing Day // D DIPASUPIL/FILMMAGIC
Obama’s message couldn’t have been more timely. According to The Global Entrepreneur Monitor, there are 200 million women entrepreneurs across the globe in the process of starting or operating new businesses. And, that number is steadily increasing.
Supporting the youth and entrepreneurship isn’t new to Obama, in fact she hosted a similar event as part of her Reach Higher initiative through the White House last year in Harlem, in Detroit the year before, and again in San Antonio in 2014.
While there Obama also mentioned the importance of having a College Signing Day. “We want young people to know that there is nothing more important than getting your education,” she said. “We need to make going to college the event that we make so many other things. You know, it’s gotta be more important than going to the NBA. It’s gotta be more exciting than getting a recording contract. We gotta celebrate students going to college bigger than we celebrate the Final Four or the Super Bowl. This is important. The number of acceptance letters that you get should be more important than the number of followers you have on social media.”
Aside from the celebrities in attendance, other stars showed their agreement on social media. Kerry Washington tweeted “Join me in celebrating #collegesigningday with @MichelleObama and thousands of students across the country,” next to a photo of herself wearing a George Washington University hat.
Sounds like Obama’s support team is in full swing.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.