— Michelle Obama
2010s, Commencement speech for Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep graduates (2015)
Context: I’m here tonight because I want to share with you just two fundamental lessons that I’ve learned in my own life, lessons grounded in the courage, love and faith that define this community and that I continue to live by to this day. Now, the first lesson is very simple, and that is, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. And I cannot stress that enough. [... ] See, when I started my freshman year at Princeton, I felt totally overwhelmed and out of place. I had never spent any meaningful time on a college campus. I had never been away from home for an extended period of time. I had no idea how to choose my classes, to — how to take notes in a large lecture. And then I looked around at my classmates, and they all seemed so happy and comfortable and confident. They never seemed to question whether they belonged at a school like Princeton. [... ] as I got to know my classmates, I realized something important. I realized that they were all struggling with something, but instead of hiding their struggles and trying to deal with them all alone, they reached out. They asked for help. If they didn’t understand something in class, they would raise their hand and ask a question, then they’d go to professor’s office hours and ask even more questions. And they were never embarrassed about it, not one bit. Because they knew that that’s how you succeed in life. See, growing up, they had the expectation that they would succeed, and that they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals. So whether it was taking an SAT-prep class, getting a math tutor, seeking advice from a teacher or counselor — they took advantage of every opportunity they had. So I decided to follow their lead. I found an advisor who helped me choose my classes. I went to the multicultural student center and met older students who became my mentor. And soon enough, I felt like I had this college thing all figured out. And, graduates, wherever you are headed, I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of folks who are eager to help you, but they are not going to come knocking on your door to find you. You have to take responsibility to find them. [... ] And if someone isn’t helpful, if they are impatient or unfriendly, then just find somebody else. You may have to go to a second, or third, or a fourth person but if you keep asking. And if you understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, then I guarantee you that you will get what you need to succeed.