First Lady, Students Call for US-China Exchange

Asia Society Confucius Classroom students with First Lady Michelle Obama.

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2011—First Lady Michelle Obama said, borrowing her husband’s words, that "America has no better ambassadors to offer than our young people."

With that, she underscored the United States' commitment to broadening and strengthening US-China people-to-people exchange, particularly in the form of educational and cultural connections between our young people.

The First Lady was joined by students and educators from Asia Society's Confucius Classrooms Network.

In her speech, Mrs. Obama said that by studying abroad, students are helping to make America stronger. Her keynote was followed by a panel discussion with students who shared anecdotes of their experiences learning Chinese and studying in China. Afterward, student representatives shook hands and chatted with the First Lady.

The event, which took place on the campus of Howard University, coincided with the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington, DC.

Asia Society’s Confucius Classrooms were invited to this event because of their strong commitment to building an educational partnership with schools in China, supporting their students in learning Chinese, and sending them to study in China. Asia Society’s firm belief in the importance of people-to-people exchange, particularly among youths, has led to a range of programs that provide opportunities for all American students to become more knowledgeable about people, languages, and cultures beyond our borders—all of which is critical to the success of our young people in an increasingly interconnected world.

President Barack Obama announced a 100,000 Strong Initiative in November 2009 as a national effort designed to dramatically increase the number, and diversify the composition, of American students studying in China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially launched the Initiative in May 2010 in Beijing. Asia Society shares this Initiative’s goal, which is to prepare the next generation of Americans who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic, and cultural ties between the United States and China.