The setting was the grand dining hall of one of Briatin's most prestigious and historical universities, lined for the occasion with scores of reporters, photographers and obligatory secret service officers.Nevertheless, the 37 schoolgirls attentively listening from the wooden benches not for one moment thought they were in anything other than an intimate gathering – such is the disarming charm of First Lady Michelle Obama. On Wednesday – day two of her husband's state visit to the UK – Michelle paid a solo visit to Christ Church at Oxford University to deliver a inspirational speech to a specially selected group of students.
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At her behest, girls from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in Islington were invited to the university to help develop an interest in further education. Michelle had crossed paths with the youngsters before – two years ago, she made an emotional trip to EGA and has kept in touch ever since, writing letters and encouraging the pupils in their studies. And she greeted them with all the warmth and interest of a 'Mom-in-Chief', dispensing advice to the girls as if they were the only ones in the room, and hugging each one at the end of the hour-long visit."I remember back when I was your age, trying to decide which schools that I would apply to. And I remember how well-meaning, but misguided, people sometimes questioned whether someone with my background could succeed at an elite university," she said in her speech."But after a few months away from home, I realised I was just as capable and I had just as much to offer as any of my classmates.""The same things I tell my girls are the things I tell you," she added.
"Don't be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to take risks, ask questions, ask stupid questions, don’t be afraid to trip, fall and don't be afraid to get back up."Talk wasn’t all academic – Michelle also took the time to answer some of the girls' questions, and even dispensed a little dating advice."Reach for partners that make you better. Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down," she said.Asked whether she thought her husband would one day be president when she first met him, Michelle replied to laughter from the group: "Absolutely not!" "I just thought he was cute, he did his work, he was smart, low-key, funny, and that he loved his little sister."I'm worried that I'm sharing secrets," she then confided to the enraptured girls. "Let's just pretend that all of these people aren’t here."