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US First Lady Promotes Student Foreign Exchanges

  • Associated Press

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (R) and Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visit Great Falls Elementary School in Great Falls, Virginia, April 28, 2015.

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (R) and Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visit Great Falls Elementary School in Great Falls, Virginia, April 28, 2015.

Michelle Obama said Tuesday that all of America's students should have the opportunity to interact with kids from other countries so they can learn about each other and realize what they have in common, instead of focusing on their differences.

The first lady told a group of Northern Virginia elementary school students who are learning Japanese and studying some of their subjects in the language that Japanese students like the same things they do: hanging out with their friends, having fun, playing sports, listening to music and reading.

“My wish for all of you and for young people across America is that you have the chance to engage with kids from other parts of the world, that you learn about each other's lives, that you understand one another's hopes and dreams so that you can truly see for yourselves, first hand, just how much we all have in common around the world,” she said at Great Falls Elementary School.

The school has a long-running Japanese immersion program in which some students learn science, math and health in Japanese.

And, according to Karen Garza, the superintendent of Fairfax County schools, about half of all students graduate with competency in at least two languages.

“That is truly the model that we all should be living up to in educating our kids here in the United States,” Mrs. Obama said.

Mrs. Obama, who made an official visit to Japan in March, was accompanied on the school visit by Japanese first lady Akie Abe. Abe's husband, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House. A state dinner also was planned for Abe Tuesday.

Mrs. Obama said the students are doing important work.

“You guys are playing an important role in bringing our two countries even closer together,” the first lady said after she and Mrs. Abe listened to students sing “It's a Small World” in Japanese. They also took in a thunderous taiko drum performance.

Mrs. Abe, who spoke through an interpreter, commended the students for their interest in Japan and its culture.

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