Cairo, Egypt

It’s truly my honor to be here at Al-Azhar. Thank you to the Grand Imam for welcoming us today.
And Dr. Daoud, Dr. Saddik, Ambassador Moussa, and Dr. Nossair: I am also grateful for your welcome and work on today’s program. 
This is my second trip to Umm al-Dunya, my first to Cairo. And I just had a very special lunch with Mrs. Amer and a warm welcome by your President.
In addition to being First Lady of the United States, I teach writing at a community college just outside of Washington, D.C. Many of my students are your age—and there are two lessons I use to get to know them better.
The first is inspired by a poem called, “Where I’m From.” Its verses tell the story of the author’s hometown, not in locations, but in sensations, and experiences, and memories. Then I ask students to think about their own lives: Where does their inner strength come from? What made them who they are?
And the second of these assignments is from a show called “This I Believe,” where people were asked to share something—anything—that they deeply believe. An idea that has shaped who they are. The assignments are simple. But the responses I get back are often deeply profound. My students show me their hearts—where they come from and how they see the world.
And as I thought about how we could get to know each other today, I knew I wanted to do the same with you.
We’ve asked you to pick one of these prompts to share, but to get us started, I thought I’d share mine. “Where I’m From:”
Ribbons of pasta, drying on the linoleum counter in my grandfather’s Italian kitchen, tomato sauce bubbling on the stove.
I’m from five sisters, glued together—messy rooms and borrowed jeans and standing up to bullies who lived on our block.    
I’m from running through the yellow streetlights on hot July nights, feeling like summer would never end. That’s what made me who I am today.
And here is my second, This I Believe: I believe the youth of Egypt—just like your peers around the world—are our future.
And I believe that you are also our present.
I believe that as you learn and grow, you will imagine new ideas and innovations that our world needs. That your unique perspectives and vision can transform medicine, and clean energy, and technology, and art. 
All of you are here today because you’re engaged and curious about the world around you. Because you understand that we owe each other more than indifference.

And each day you shape your communities in big ways and small ones. 

I believe that faith enriches our lives—helps us through the darkest times and reminds us of our place in the universe.
I believe that understanding each other can help us find more common ground—see that, even if we are different, we’re united by our desire for truth, love, justice, and healing. 
I believe—and so does my husband, Joe—that the United States must be a partner to Egypt—working side by side.

And most of all, we believe that work is not just about government-to-government relationships. It’s people to people. Heart to heart.
And that’s why I’m here today. To listen and get to know you. And to take your stories home to the United States.
So thank you again for joining me today. And now, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Makhlouf. Thank you so much for moderating our discussion.

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