Despite the increasingly negative perception of unpaid internships, First Lady Michelle Obama vouched for their value on Thursday.
Speaking at Howard University, a historically black school in Washington D.C., the First Lady told students to look for and take internship opportunities early in their college career, regardless of pay, in order to gain as many job-related skills as possible.
Obama emphasized that all of her personal assistants were once White House interns, which led her to joke, “My life is controlled by 20-something-year-olds. It’s really annoying.”
Data shows that her personal assistants make good money. As a whole, the 20 or so of them make $1.5 million a year combined, with individual salaries ranging from $42,000 to $172,000.
In her wide-ranging question-and-answer session with students, Obama also told students to pursue their dreams by choosing a major that they truly enjoy. In addition, she drove home that failure should not be looked at in a bad light as long as one learns from their mistakes.
“Failure is part of success,” she said. “No one got here in a straight line without failure. Everyone has had it, including the President, up and down. The thing you can’t do is hide from your failures. Seek help when you’re struggling.”
Parts of the discussion were more lighthearted, with Obama describing her college persona as someone “who liked to have fun and go to an occasional party or two or three.”
The panel was hosted by Late Night show host Seth Meyers. Nick Cannon, another popular TV personality, was also present.