First Lady speaks at UNI Graduation, thanks to a proud mom - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

First Lady speaks at UNI Graduation, thanks to a proud mom

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

The First Lady returned to Iowa for the first time since the 2008 election to speak at UNI's 2011 Commencement ceremony. She focused on family, service, following your passion, and openness to ideas.

Because of the First Lady's presence, UNI combined its graduation ceremonies so all graduates and their families could hear her address inside the UNI-dome. Mrs. Obama made references to her time in Iowa during the 2008 presidential campaign, the Interlude Dance, Ali Farokhmanesh, and in a more serious tone, U.S. Forces killing Osama bin Laden.

She reiterated that service, carrying your values with you, following your passion, and keeping an open mind are critical to success in any field. Graduates said they may not remember the exact words in a few years but they'll remember who said them.

"How many people have the first lady as their commencement speaker? It was awesome!" said Becky Gesell.

"She is an amazing speaker. Very inspiring. I don't even think she used notes!" added Brooke Person.

Many students said they could relate to much of the First Lady's speech. They appreciate her passion for service and say it's an important part of an education at UNI.

That passion for service is part of what originally drew Michelle Obama to speak in Cedar Falls. The other piece -- a letter from a proud parent, who originally asked the president to consider speaking at her son's graduation.

Adam Geneva's mom, Ann Geneva, sent a letter to the president last summer. She won't tell us exactly what was said, but she is a teacher, and you have to imagine it was pretty good.

"It goes to show you, the White House reads the letters," she said.

But even after receiving word that the First Lady had accepted their invitation, they still had a hard time believing she would come.

"I didn't believe it would happen. It was exciting. I choked up a little bit actually," said Adam.

Most people saw the First Lady from a short distance. But a select group, including the Geneva's, had the opportunity to shake her hand -- even hug her --and say thank you.

"I still can't believe I met her today. I'm still in shock!" said Adam.

"She's such a gracious lady... what a speech," added Ann.

Monday, a thrilled mom will return to her classroom, and remind her kids of the power of a well written letter.

"They're in kindergarten, so they're learning their ABC's!" Ann laughed. "But they'll think it's cool. I'll bring the picture in and show them. They'll think it's really awesome."

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