In case you missed it, Michelle Obama touted 100,000 Strong on her recent visit to China. The following is excerpted from a TIME Magazine report, which you can read in its full version here.
“Obama began her day at Beijing Normal School, an elite high school whose students enjoy a leafy campus and state-of-the-art equipment. The walls are decorated with murals glorifying both Euclid and Karl Marx. She and Peng visited a robotics class, where students were learning about various robots, including a hexagonal snowflake robot that one student described to Obama as “very amazing and adorable.” The first ladies also took in a calligraphy class, where Peng wrote a four-character aphorism that describes how individuals with high morality can accomplish major tasks. She presented the calligraphy to Obama as a present.
Finally, the two wrapped up their school tour by visiting a ping-pong class where students spend 40 minutes slamming plastic balls onto green tables with metronomic precision. Table tennis is a serious sport in China, with deep political significance. After enduring decades of international isolation during which the world chose the government in Taiwan as China’s rightful representative, Beijing began to integrate into the global community. Ping-pong led the way.
After a speech in which each ping-pong teacher was introduced with great solemnity, Obama slipped out of her vest-coat and tried her hand at ping-pong. The students stayed silent as she whiffed her first few attempts. But as she began to make contact with the table, the kids broke out into gasps and claps. Afterward, Obama, who has made physical fitness one of her signature campaigns, joked about her husband’s ping-pong prowess. “My husband plays,” she said. “He thinks he’s better than he really is.” The students laughed nervously.
The Chinese first lady, whose hair was coiffed in an elaborate braid known in China as “scorpion head,” declined to play. She did, however, nod and smile at her American counterpart’s enthusiastic efforts. For years, Peng, now 51, was far more famous in China than her husband, President Xi Jinping, who quietly rose through the Communist Party’s ranks. A folk singer with the People’s Liberation Army, Peng attained the rank of major general and was known for warbling rousing socialist ditties like “People From Our Village.” While she has been far more visible than her predecessors, who rarely appeared in any photo-ops with their leader husbands, Peng still hews to a script. She stood rigidly next to Obama as they gazed upon robots, exchanging not a word. Nor did she engage in much small talk with the Beijing Normal School students, although she did admit, as she picked up her calligraphy brush: “I’m somewhat nervous, too.” Peng also spoke phrases of well-enunciated English.
More than 30 American kids are studying at Beijing Normal School, part of a growing corps of 20,000 American students in China (the number of Chinese students in the U.S. is upwards of 200,000). Obama has made the importance of education one of the themes of her China trip, and she is using her personal story as an example of American social mobility.
“As someone from a modest background, [Obama] has parents who didn’t go to college but who emphasized education… as a way to succeed and move forward,” said Tina Tchen, Obama’s chief of staff.
Some of the American students studying at Beijing Normal School come from the U.S.’ toniest private schools, like Phillips Academy Andover in Mass. and Sidwell Friends in Washington, which Obama’s daughters attend. The Beijing Normal School program for some foreign students, according to two American teenagers, costs $50,000 a year. Obama is promoting a State Department-backed program called 100,000 Strong that will send American children of all economic backgrounds to study in China.“
Again, here is a link to the original article, Michelle Obama Tours Beijing With China’s First Lady