By Cameron Rasmusson
Sandpoint High School counselor Jeralyn Mire wasn’t expecting to be present for a historic moment while in Washington, D.C., last week.
Even so, that’s how her trip turned out when First Lady Michelle Obama chose an event honoring school counselors to make her final public address. It proved to be an emotional day as Obama told attendees that “being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.”
“She choked up, and it made me cry,” Mire said. “It was unbelievable, an I-can’t-believe-it-happened-to-me event.”
Mire was in D.C. to be acknowledged as Idaho’s school counselor of the year, an honor given her through the American School Counseling Association. After being nominated for the accolade, Mire put together an application video that edged her above fellow nominees. ASCA officials later selected her as the award recipient and invited her to join other honorees at a White House ceremony.
After arriving in the national capital last Friday, Mire and the other counselors found themselves at the White House for a formal ceremony. According to Mire, Obama attended the event to be acknowledged for her work on the Reach Higher Initiative, a White House-led effort to promote education after high school through professional training programs, community colleges or four-year colleges and universities. After arriving, Obama chatted informally with the group, and Mire was impressed with her conduct.
“She came in and addressed all counselors and was just so genuine and kind and caring and inspiring,” Mire said.
Obama then delivered her speech, which emphasized the importance of hard work and self-motivation to pursue achievements, in front of the counselors. She said everyone deserves a chance to succeed regardless of race, gender or economic background.
“Know that this country belongs to you, to all of you. If you or your parents are immigrants, you are part of a proud American tradition,” she said. “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story. You do.”
During the speech, Mire stood directly behind Obama and was clearly visible in the media video reports and photographs of the event. She said it was an overwhelming experience to be featured so prominently during an emotional final speech.
“She said she specifically chose to honor school counselors [as the circumstances of] her last public address,” Mire said. “It really made you feel great to be in the profession that she selected for that speech.”