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US first lady encourages rural residents of southwestern China via satellite link

BEIJING -- U.S. first lady Michelle Obama encouraged rural Chinese students to aim high and get a good education despite humble roots, in a speech Tuesday that was delivered via satellite technology to remote communities in southwestern China.

She cited herself, NBA star Lebron James and Starbucks executive Howard Shultz as examples of people with modest backgrounds succeeding, during her 15-minute presentation at Chengdu No. 7 High School in Sichuan province.

“Because in America, we believe that no matter where you live or how much money your parents have, or what race or religion or ethnicity you are, if you work hard and believe in yourself, then you should have a chance to succeed,” she said.

Her speech, on the last leg of a six-day, three-city tour of China, was delivered to a stadium of 700 students as well as to 12,000 rural students through satellite-enabled distance-learning technology.

The elite high school has a reputation for using such technology to bring quality education to impoverished remote regions. Many of its graduates also pursue college education in the United States.

Mrs. Obama later held a question-and-answer session with 20,000 students piped in via satellite technology before she observed a student demonstration of the traditional Chinese exercise regime tai chi and tried a few moves.

Mrs. Obama has largely avoided thorny, political issues on her China trip, although she made a strong statement on behalf of free expression, choice of religion and unfettered access to information as “universal rights,” during a speech Saturday at the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing.

China has some of the world's tightest restrictions on Internet discourse. Mrs. Obama's remarks did not call out China directly and have not drawn any governmental protest. But that part of her speech has been kept out of all official Chinese media reports.

On Tuesday, she once again stressed how Americans value the freedoms of speech and belief.

“We also believe that everyone is equal, and that we all have the right to say what we think and worship as we choose, even when others don't like what we say or don't always agree with what we believe,” Mrs. Obama said.

While in Beijing, the first lady visited an elite high school, where more than 30 American students are studying as exchange students, and she held a private discussion with a handful of Chinese professors, students and parents.

Mrs. Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, before Xi flew to The Hague for a nuclear security summit and held a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday.

Accompanied by her mother Marian Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha, Mrs. Obama has toured the former Imperial Palace, the Great Wall in Beijing, and the Terra Cotta Museum in the ancient city of Xi'an.

She is schedule to visit a panda research center and lunch at a Tibetan restaurant Wednesday before departing for Washington.

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U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, center left, speaks during a dialogue with students at an English language class at Chengdu No. 7 High School in Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, China on Tuesday, March 25. (AP)

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