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Michelle Obama, Nick Cannon and Late Night host Seth Meyers paid a surprise visit to Howard University to offer students words of advice and encouragement ahead of the school year. The back-to-school special, which took place Sept. 1 in Washington, D.C., aired as part of his Friday episode.
Speaking to an auditorium of over 200 freshmen in a Q&A panel moderated by Meyers, the first lady stressed the importance of students stepping outside of their comfort zones to make the most out of their college experience.
“College was probably the most impactful thing that I have done in my life — other than being the first lady and having kids and marrying Barack Obama,” she joked, before adding, “But college did everything for me. It built my confidence. It taught me that I could leave home and be successful away from home. It taught me how to open up, how to try new things that are scary, how to buck expectations and beats the odds.”
Obama reflected on her own years as a student at Princeton University, telling the audience that she didn’t take her education or her parents’ financial support for granted. She told the crowd, “I knew my father had taken out a loan, and he was a blue-collar worker, so I knew I had to get it together and make sure I was doing my best.”
Cannon, who enrolled as a freshman at Howard in late August, discussed his personal decision to return to school despite already having an established career.
“I’m not here for a degree. I’m here because I have a real thirst for knowledge,” said the America’s Got Talent host, adding that, as a father, he wanted to set an example for his two children. “I’m always talking about being an advocate for education. I gotta walk the walk.”
He noted that, even though film projects and hosting gigs keep him busy, “I just consider all my other jobs extracurricular activities. School is first and foremost.”
On the topic of choosing a college major, Meyers emphasized the value in exploring extracurricular activities and shared how his involvement in one particular club led to a career in comedy.
“I thought I wanted to be a film director, and then I realized I wasn’t good at it,” said the Saturday Night Live alum, who was a radio-TV-film major at Northwestern University. “My school had an improv comedy troupe, which I ended up auditioning for and getting, and that ultimately set me on my path to where I ended up. … Sometimes that might be the thing that inspires your next job.”
Obama also offered words of advice for freshmen just beginning their next four years at Howard, reminding them to always stay grounded and ignore peers who “try to step on your confidence.”
“Hold on to your authentic self, even in this experience. As you grow and achieve, remember who you always were, where you came from, who your parents were, how they raised you,” she said. “That authentic self is going to follow you all through life. So make sure that it’s solid.”
She continued, “When I applied to colleges, I had people who told me that I was reaching too high — that the schools I was applying to were too much for me. There are a lot of people who will try to step on your confidence based on their assumptions about who they think you are. What you have to remember is that you are competent and capable and able to do it.”
Friday’s episode of Late Night also featured a pretaped segment in which Obama and Meyers sat down one-on-one with Howard University students and advised them on ways to destress, reflected on their favorite college-party memories and showed them how to prepare a well-balanced meal away from home. The first lady recommended a healthy mix of protein and grains, while Meyers suggested Skittles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Watch the bit below.
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