The American School Counselor Association, the organization where Jill works, recognized its School Counselor of the Year at the Kennedy Center today. I could not be prouder of the work my wife does on this program, which she helped create and has nurtured for more than a decade.
Kirsten Perry, who works at Lawndale Community Academy in Chicago, won the 11th annual award. And, in her first major speech since leaving the White House, former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the event for the third consecutive year.
Mrs. Obama recognized Jill and the ASCA staff at the start of her speech, then focused her remarks on the positives in an uncertain time. Here are a few quotes from the speech:
"While it was nice to hold this event in the White House last year, this was never about the White House. It was never about me or Barack, and it's never about the handful of people who happen to be in power at any given time. Folks who model decency and dignity and integrity for our kids every single day, see, that's who we are. That more than anything is what shapes our children and that's what makes America great.
"Trust me, I know this work isn't easy, especially right now. I know there's a lot of anxiety out there. And there's no denying that our kids, what they see on TV, the kind of behavior being modeled in public life — all of that, yes — impacts their behavior and their character. But at times like this the work you are all doing is even more urgent. It's even more critically important. See, you all have the power to teach our kids what it means to go high when others go low. You have that power.
"Our counselors and educators have a far bigger impact on our kids' lives than any president or first lady. ... You all serve as living, breathing examples of the kind of people they should aspire to be. You don't get dragged down by the headlines, by the false claims about our children and our neighborhoods, you don't have time for that nonsense because you're out there doing the work.
"No matter what's going on right now, out there, all that noise, you know that our young people are the future, and the most important thing we can do as individuals and as a nation is to believe in all of them, to invest in all of them and to build schools and communities worthy of their boundless promise."