Student Life

Five Life Lessons From Michelle Obama

By: Katherine Sousa

As a Public Relations student, or really just a student in general, there are a lot of things that I still need to learn and so many things I still want to learn. I have been fortunate in my life to always love learning and to have had great teachers and mentors, especially today in my current endeavour at Seneca College. But I am always looking for the next best way to learn or person to learn from. You never know where or when you are going to get your next life changing piece of knowledge. For me, that was November 28th, 2017.


I had the amazing opportunity to see Former First Lady Michelle Obama speak in Toronto on November 28th, 2017. The Economic Club of Canada partnered with Plan International to create Economics of Equality: Advancing Women & Girls to Change the World, where decision-makers and top Canadian business leaders gathered with youth leaders across Canada for an in-depth conversation about what is possible when girls and women have equal opportunity.

The special thing about this particular event was that they wanted to ensure that youth had an equal seat in the conversation. For every ticket purchased to the event, a second ticket was donated to a young person free-of-charge, inclusive of all genders.

Michelle Obama is one of the most well spoken and inspiring people to hear speak. Her grace and acceptance is something everyone should aspire to and her words hold wisdom for every aspect of your life. Of the many lessons I learned that day, these were the five most important.

1. “Our stories are important.”

Never be ashamed of where you started. Michelle Obama grew up in the Southside of Chicago and reminds people of it every chance she gets. She knows how important it is to showcase all the stories of success. Everyone’s story is different and the more people know that, the more empowered they feel. To know that every story can end in success is a powerful notion. There isn’t just one story that leads to success. Successful people have all different stories. Share yours. Be proud of yours.

2. “People who are a successful didn’t get there because they didn’t make mistakes. They got there because they made a lot of mistakes, but got back up.”

This one may be one of the most important. Often times, especially as a student, people are afraid to mess up, afraid to fail. Everyone fails at something, it’s about how quickly you recover and work to succeed after those failures. I see this in my classmates all the time. School can get stressful and the desire to succeed in it even more so, however, you just have to remember you are in school to learn. No one expects you to know or be good at everything, but they do expect you to work hard to succeed. So go ahead and make mistakes, just be sure to learn from them.


3. “No one can overstate the importance of one’s health.”

You can’t do anything without your health. Taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically is so important. When you are strong and healthy that turns into confidence. No matter how stressful and busy life gets, take some time for yourself. Make sure you are healthy because you can’t help others until you help yourself.


4. “If you are going to use these tools. You have to be mature and thoughtful.”

The world is changing and with that, the way we communicate is always evolving. In a world where social media is constantly becoming a bigger part of our lives, remember that those tools should be used responsibly. Don’t use it to spread negativity and share every aspect of your life. Use it wisely, use it strategically, and use it with purpose. As she said, “Effective communication is about thought. It takes time to really think about what you want to say. Then edit, and spell check, and punctuate, and edit some more.”


5. “You have to be your own education advocate.”

Fight for the education you deserve. Don’t think that just because you don’t get it, you never will. As Michelle stated, “If you don’t understand it, they need to explain it better.” Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. No one can tell you how quickly you should be learning. People just want to know that you can get to the right answer and that you know why and how, not how long it should take you to do that.