MRS. OBAMA: Oh, it’s absolutely critical. I spoke of this in my remarks because I believe it to be true. The changes that we need to make in this world are big, and they’ll take time. So a lot of the things that our generations are working towards just will not be actualized in our lifetime, and it’s not because the path isn’t the right path. It’s just that change is slow sometimes. Meaningful change is — takes time.
So that means that we all may be laying the foundation for our children and our grandchildren. And just because we won’t see it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it.
You look at Mr. Nelson Mandela, right? I mean, I’m sure at some point during his detention he could have thought, man, this is a bad idea, huh? (Laughter.) I don’t know if this is working out that well.
But he is 92; he will be 93 this year. And in his lifetime, just imagine — because he has been fortunate enough to live that long, he has seen the full — not the complete, but the huge impact of his legacy, and most people just don’t get to see that. So he is blessed to know that it was worth it, right?
So maybe you don’t live that long. But know that if you are doing the right thing, that in a generation or two or three, it will matter.
So that’s where youth leadership comes in, because we are always passing the baton. You all are always in a position to come with new ideas and new realities. Some of the hurts and the wounds of the past, fortunately, you just haven’t lived through. So you can perceive it differently, right?
That’s why youth is important. Forgiving, moving beyond, not forgetting — know your history, know the origins of the circumstance — but adding your own experience and your voice. That’s how we build nations. It starts with young people.
DR. RAMPHELE: Fantastic. So you guys are going to sort out all the issues that we failed to sort out.
Nuhaa Sentso from Spine school.
Q How did you meet your husband, and what are his endearing qualities? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: How did I meet my husband? (Laughter.) It’s a good question.
Oh, how did I meet my husband?
DR. RAMPHELE: How did you meet your husband?
MRS. OBAMA: How did I meet my husband?
DR. RAMPHELE: Yes. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: There are a lot of people sitting up now. (Laughter.) I actually — I met him — we went to the same law school, but we went at different times. He is older than me, I have to point out.
But I went straight through law school, and I was working as a lawyer, so I was — it was my first year as a lawyer, and my husband was just starting law school, but he got a job as an apprentice, or an intern, in my law firm. And I was his advisor — which, as he points out, doesn’t mean that I was supervising him. I didn’t give him work — which is true. It’s actually true. I wasn’t his boss, but I was sort of like his mentor, you know, helping him get adjusted.
And he asked me out. (Laughter.) And I first said no, because I thought, you know, we work together; that seems a little strange. But eventually I said yes because of all the things I said before. I saw the qualities. I saw him practicing good stuff in his life. Not a perfect person, but a person who was committed to something beyond himself; the fact that he wasn’t just a law student who wanted to make a lot of money, even though he could. He was a community organizer. He had real passion about change.
And he added something to me. He added more to who I was. And I always say this to people. If you’re going to have somebody in your life, whether it’s a mate or a friend, make sure they add value to you, right, because part of that practice is who you surround yourself with.
And if you want to be great, you can’t be hanging out with people who aren’t practicing greatness, because they can pull you down. You want to be pulling people up along the way.
So Barack made me better. And hopefully he would say I made him better, too. Let’s just say that. (Laughter.) I made him better. (Laughter.)
DR. RAMPHELE: So, guys, if you want to have beautiful wives, you better up your game, eh? (Laughter.)
And we have the last very tough question from Chad Bell from Oude Molen school. The toughest question of all.
MRS. OBAMA: Uh oh.
Q I’d just like to know what are your favorite foods? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: What — I missed that. What —
DR. RAMPHELE: Your favorite foods.
MRS. OBAMA: My favorite? Oh, this is a tough one. It is tough — (laughter) — you know, because if I say something not healthy, people will be like, you aren’t really committed to health. If I say something healthy, you know — I do — honestly, I like all kinds of foods. I like Italian food, I like Indian food, I really — I like Mexican food. I love — you know, it’s hard to pick one.
No, if I picked one favorite, favorite food, it’s French fries. (Laughter.) Okay? It’s French fries. I can’t stop eating them. (Laughter.) But eat your vegetables. (Laughter.) And exercise. (Laughter.)
But if that was our last question, one thing — and I hope my staff doesn’t lose their minds, but Mamphela, talk to these young people. Now, you’re here. You’re moderating. But I know you have words for these young people. Please.
END 2:54 P.M. (Local)