By Geneva Sands - 05/11/12 06:59 PM EDT
Michelle Obama told 2012 graduates at Virginia Tech on Friday in her 2012 commencement speech that, like many students around the world, she had "been following the journey" of those at the Blacksburg, Va., school.
"Whether you're celebrating your triumphs or coming together in times of tragedy, what is clear is that you all didn't just choose to attend a school, you chose to be a part of a community," Obama said.
April was the five-year anniversary of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, in which Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old student with a history of mental illness, killed 32 people before turning a gun on himself.
"When you all are out there in the world and you meet someone and you tell them you're from Virginia Tech and they say 'huh, isn't that the school where …?' I want you to interrupt them right there and say, 'yes, it is the school where we have some of the best academic programs and professors in the country.' That's what you tell them. You tell them 'yes,' " Obama said.
Obama spoke to thousands at Lane Stadium's Worsham Field, which had 4,200 seats and the capacity of about 45,000 people total, according to The Roanoke Times.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was also a commencement speaker Friday.
Warner was initially asked to speak, but Obama was added after the White House reached out to the school. Virginia Tech chose not to revoke its invitation to Warner, allowing for two graduation-day speakers, reported Virginia television station WDBJ7.
The White House said Obama wanted to speak at Virginia Tech because she was inspired by the resilience of the student body and community.
The first lady will also deliver the commencement address at North Carolina A&T Saturday, which President Obama and Michelle Obama recognize as one of the historically black colleges that have been "instrumental in educating generations of African Americans," said the White House.
In June she will speak to graduates at Oregon State University, where her brother Craig Robinson is the head men’s basketball coach.