First lady touts college degrees

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Michelle Obama expanded her policy scope to education on Tuesday with a speech urging lower-income students to get a college education.

The first lady, who's made fighting childhood obesity and helping veterans her signature initiatives, touted her own story and made a rare reference to her professional career before her time in the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT
"I went to law school, became a lawyer. I’ve been a vice president for a hospital. I’ve been the head of a nonprofit organization. And I am here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story. The details might be a little different, but let me tell you, so many of the challenges and the triumphs will be just the same," she told students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington D.C.

She recounted how she spent an hour on the bus every day in Chicago to go to school, how she wanted to go to Princeton but faced criticism from those who said she reached too high and how she found success.

The speech was a change of pace for the first lady, who's known for showing off her biceps, dancing with Jimmy Fallon and encouraging children to eat their veggies.

It also marks an expansion of her second-term agenda. Obama touched on policy issues earlier this year, when she gave a passionate speech about gun violence in her hometown of Chicago. But forays into those areas have been rare by the first lady, who touts her image as a mom and enjoys higher approval ratings than her husband.

But the speech indicated she would be more involved in President Obama's agenda. She referenced his North Star goal in her remarks, noting that, by the year 2020, the president wants the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

"Now, Barack set this goal because as a generation ago, we were number one in college graduates. But over the past couple of decades, this country has slipped all the way to 12th. We’ve slipped. And that’s unacceptable, and we’ve all got a lot of work to do to turn that around and get back on top," she said.