MRS. OBAMA: (Applause.) Thank you. Well, ni-hao. (Laughter.) It is
such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you at this great
university, so thank you so much for having me.
Now, before I get started today, on behalf of myself and my husband, I
just want to say a few very brief words about Malaysia Airlines Flight
370. As my husband has said, the United States is offering as many
resources as possible to assist in the search. And please know that we
are keeping all of the families and loved ones of those on this flight
in our thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time.
Now with that, I want to start by recognizing our new Ambassador to
China, Ambassador Baucus; President Wang; Chairman Zhu; Vice President
Li; Director Cueller; Professor Oi, and the Stanford Center; President
Sexton from New York University, which is an excellent study abroad
program in Shanghai; and John Thornton, Director of the Global
Leadership Program at Tsinghua University. Thank you all for joining
But most of all, I want to thank all of the students who are here
today. And I particularly want to thank Eric Schaefer and Zhu Xuanhao
for that extraordinary English and Chinese introduction. That was a
powerful symbol of everything that I want to talk with you about
See, by learning each other’s languages, and by showing such curiosity
and respect for each other’s cultures, Mr. Schafer and Ms. Zhu and all
of you are building bridges of understanding that will lead to so much
more. And I’m here today because I know that our future depends on
connections like these among young people like you across the globe.
That’s why when my husband and I travel abroad, we don’t just visit
palaces and parliaments and meet with heads of state. We also come to
schools like this one to meet with students like you, because we believe
that relationships between nations aren’t just about relationships
between governments or leaders — they’re about relationships between
people, particularly young people. So we view study abroad programs not
just as an educational opportunity for students, but also as a vital
part of America’s foreign policy.
Through the wonders of modern technology, our world is more connected
than ever before. Ideas can cross oceans with the click of a button.
Companies can do business and compete with companies across the globe.
And we can text, email, Skype with people on every continent.
So studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to spend a semester; it is
quickly becoming the key to success in our global economy. Because
getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about getting good grades
or test scores in school, which are important. It’s also about having
real experience with the world beyond your borders –- experience with
languages, cultures and societies very different from your own. Or, as
the Chinese saying goes: “It is better to travel ten thousand miles
than to read ten thousand books.”
But let’s be clear, studying abroad is about so much more than improving
your own future. It’s also about shaping the future of your countries
and of the world we all share. Because when it comes to the defining
challenges of our time -– whether it’s climate change or economic
opportunity or the spread of nuclear weapons — these are shared
challenges. And no one country can confront them alone. The only way
forward is together.
That’s why it is so important for young people like you to live and
study in each other’s countries, because that’s how you develop that
habit of cooperation. You do it by immersing yourself in one another’s
culture, by learning each other’s stories, by getting past the
stereotypes and misconceptions that too often divide us.
That’s how you come to understand how much we all share. That’s how you
realize that we all have a stake in each other’s success — that cures
discovered here in Beijing could save lives in America, that clean
energy technologies from Silicon Valley in California could improve the
environment here in China, that the architecture of an ancient temple in
Xi’an could inspire the design of new buildings in Dallas or
And that’s when the connections you make as classmates or labmates can
blossom into something more. That’s what happened when Abigail Coplin
became an American Fulbright Scholar here at Peking University. She and
her colleagues published papers together in top science journals, and
they built research partnerships that lasted long after they returned to
their home countries. And Professor Niu Ke from Peking University was a
Fulbright Scholarship — Scholar in the U.S. last year, and he reported
— and this is a quote from him — he said, “The most memorable
experiences were with my American friends.”
These lasting bonds represent the true value of studying abroad. And I
am thrilled that more and more students are getting this opportunity.
As you’ve heard, China is currently the fifth most popular destination
for Americans studying abroad, and today, the highest number of exchange
students in the U.S. are from China.
But still, too many students never have this chance, and some that do
are hesitant to take it. They may feel like studying abroad is only for
wealthy students or students from certain kinds of universities. Or
they may think to themselves, well, that sounds fun but how will it be
useful in my life? And believe me, I understand where these young
people are coming from because I felt the same way back when I was in
See, I came from a working-class family, and it never occurred to me to
study abroad — never. My parents didn’t get a chance to attend
college, so I was focused on getting into a university, earning my
degree so that I could get a good job to support myself and help my
family. And I know for a lot of young people like me who are struggling
to afford a regular semester of school, paying for plane tickets or
living expenses halfway around the world just isn’t possible. And
that’s not acceptable, because study abroad shouldn’t just be for
students from certain backgrounds.
Our hope is to build connections between people of all races and
socioeconomic backgrounds, because it is that diversity that truly will
change the face of our relationships. So we believe that diversity
makes our country vibrant and strong. And our study abroad programs
should reflect the true spirit of America to the world.
And that’s why when my husband visited China back in 2009, he announced
the 100,000 Strong initiative to increase the number and diversity of
American students studying in China. And this year, as we mark the 35th
anniversary of the normalization of relationships between our two
countries, the U.S. government actually supports more American students
in China than in any other country in the world.
We are sending high school, college and graduate students here to study
Chinese. We’re inviting teachers from China to teach Mandarin in
American schools. We’re providing free online advising for students in
China who want to study in the U.S. And the U.S.-China Fulbright
program is still going strong with more than 3,000 alumni.
And the private sector is stepping up as well. For example, Steve
Schwarzman, who is the head of an American company called Blackstone, is
funding a new program at Tsinghua University modeled on the Rhodes
Scholarship. And today, students from all kinds of backgrounds are
studying here in China.
Take the example of Royale Nicholson, who’s from Cleveland, Ohio. She
attends New York University’s program in Shanghai. Now, like me, Royale
is a first-generation college student. And her mother worked two
full-time jobs while her father worked nights to support their family.
And of her experience in Shanghai, Royale said — and this is her quote
— she said, “This city oozes persistence and inspires me to accomplish
all that I can.” And happy birthday, Royale. It was her birthday
And then there’s Philmon Haile from the University of Washington, whose
family came to the U.S. as refugees from Eritrea when he was a child.
And of his experience studying in China, he said, “Study abroad is a
powerful vehicle for people-to-people exchange as we move into a new era
of citizen diplomacy.”
“A new era of citizen diplomacy.” I could not have said it better
myself, because that’s really what I’m talking about. I am talking
about ordinary citizens reaching out to the world. And as I always tell
young people back in America, you don’t need to get on a plane to be a
citizen diplomat. I tell them that if you have an Internet connection
in your home, school, or library, within seconds you can be transported
anywhere in the world and meet people on every continent.
And that’s why I’m posting a daily travel blog with videos and photos of
my experiences here in China, because I want young people in America to
be part of this visit. And that’s really the power of technology –- how
it can open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations
we never could have imagined.
And that’s why it’s so important for information and ideas to flow
freely over the Internet and through the media, because that’s how we
discover the truth. That’s how we learn what’s really happening in our
communities and our country and our world. And that’s how we decide
which values and ideas we think are best –- by questioning and debating
them vigorously, by listening to all sides of an argument, and by
judging for ourselves.
And believe me, I know how this can be a messy and frustrating process.
My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and
criticism from our media and our fellow citizens. And it’s not always
easy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Because time
and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous
when the voices of and opinions of all their citizens can be heard.
And as my husband has said, we respect the uniqueness of other cultures
and societies, but when it comes to expressing yourself freely and
worshipping as you choose and having open access to information, we
believe those universal rights — they are universal rights that are the
birthright of every person on this planet. We believe that all people
deserve the opportunity to fulfill their highest potential as I was able
to do in the United States.
And as you learn about new cultures and form new friendships during your
time here in China and in the United States, all of you are the living,
breathing embodiment of those values. So I guarantee you that in
studying abroad, you’re not just changing your own life, you are
changing the lives of everyone you meet.
And as the great American President John F. Kennedy once said about
foreign students studying in the U.S., he said “I think they teach more
than they learn.” And that is just as true of young Americans who study
abroad. All of you are America’s best face, and China’s best face, to
the world — you truly are.
Every day, you show the world your countries’ energy and creativity and
optimism and unwavering belief in the future. And every day, you remind
us — and me in particular — of just how much we can achieve if we
reach across borders, and learn to see ourselves in each other, and
confront our shared challenges with shared resolve.
So I hope you all will keep seeking these kinds of experiences. And I
hope you’ll keep teaching each other, and learning from each other, and
building bonds of friendship that will enrich your lives and enrich our
world for decades to come.
You all have so much to offer, and I cannot wait to see all that you
achieve together in the years ahead.
Thank you so much. Xie-Xie. (Applause.)
Ni men háo!
My personal ties to China grow more each time I come here. People here
believe in the future. They believe in the power of innovation.
We share this spirit.
The BMW Group is a Bavarian company. Today, we feel at home all over the
world – also here in China.
Over the past 20 years, we have become a part of Chinese society.
Our Joint Venture BMW Brilliance Automotive is the cornerstone of our
success here. We are an active contributor to the “Northeast
President Xi’s Boao Speech outlined a grand vision of China’s opening-up
in the New Era. It was a great honour for me to meet him personally.
We fully appreciate China’s policy – based on innovation, quality-driven
growth and sustainability.
The BMW Group follows a global approach. We have a clear local focus on
electrification,autonomous driving, digitalisation and services.
We have a fantastic team here in China. I often travel here and really
enjoy meeting with them. I truly appreciate their competence, dedication
We are very proud to be part of China’s dynamic development.
We will continue to create products and technologies under the motto:
“In China, for China and for the World.”
I firmly believe that together, we can create a prosperous future.
In this sense, I would like to congratulate the China Development Forum
on its 20th anniversary and I wish you: All the very best for the