A group of students from Spelman and Morehouse colleges who've been studying Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," had a surprise visitor to discuss the work — the former first lady herself.
Obama came to Spelman to talk with the students Saturday about the best-selling book ahead of her sold-out appearance Saturday night at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta.
Obama encouraged the 18 students to have faith in themselves, saying she learned through her eight years in the White House and elsewhere that she is as smart and capable as the well-educated and famous leaders she encountered, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Obama used a phrase made famous by Atlanta civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to emphasize her point. "I've been to the mountaintop and I've seen it. You're deserving and worthy," she said.
She later added, "The biggest challenge to overcome now is believing in yourself."
The students spent this past semester studying "Becoming" as a foundational text for their political science class "Black Women: Developing Public Leadership Skills." The students occasionally take courses on each other's campus. Spelman and Morehouse, located near downtown Atlanta, are two of Georgia's nine accredited historically black colleges and universities.
The former first lady asked jokingly when she arrived if the students fell asleep reading her book.
No way, they replied.
Spelman junior political science major Jordan Barefield said "Becoming" has increased her motivation to continue her pursuit of a career in public service, saying the examples set by the Obamas were "inspiring."
"Being able to dissect that has been a blessing," said Barefield. "This is unbelievable."
Morehouse student Lanarion Norwood told Obama her book motivated him.
"I have to be the fruits of my labor and grow for my country," Norwood said.
Obama approvingly snapped both her fingers several times after his remarks and said "you're hired" to laughter.
Obama also talked about her own experiences as a student at Princeton University, where she encountered some people who felt she didn't belong at the Ivy League school.
"If you still believe here today as students at Morehouse and Spelman that you are not good enough, it's not about something that's happened to you today, it's probably a part of what you've heard and seen consistently throughout your life. And that's your story that you have to own and have to understand," she said. "That's what this book is about. You've got to be able to go over the moments in your life that brought you to a moment of joy and happiness or broke you down and be able to understand how has that made you who you are today and what are you going to do to recalibrate."
Zoe Turner, 11, sat in on part of the discussion. She said Obama's remarks reinforced some lessons from her parents, who brought her.
"If somebody tells me you can't do something, don't listen to them," Turner said. "Always believe."