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First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 on Friday and President Barack Obama is throwing her a birthday party at the White House on Saturday. Word on the street is that guests have been told to come ready to dance.

She deserves to celebrate.

Michelle Obama has a passion for encouraging people in need, and black students in particular; she is an effective surrogate for the president, and she’s one of the most popular first lady’s in history.

Last month, as I stood next to Michelle Obama during a White House reception, we chatted briefly, and I was struck, as always, by her regal aura, her elegance, her humor — and the historic knowledge that a gifted black woman from the South Side of Chicago is overseeing the White House.

And as a national role model for young people and adults, Michelle Obama practices what she preaches: She eats healthy and exercises regularly.

“She’s at the top of her game,” Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend of the Obamas and a Senior White House adviser, told People magazine. “She’s fabulous at 50.”

Michelle Obama isn’t just all about parties leading up to her birthday: The first lady is also about uplifting black students and empowering black youth through health and education – the hallmark of her tenure in the White House. The first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign for healthy eating and her efforts to end childhood obesity within a generation has led to healthier school lunches for public school students.

This week, Michelle Obama hosted two White House events designed to support black students. Since President Obama took office in 2009, African American students have been regular guests for White House gatherings at the first lady’s direction.

On Thursday, the president and first lady hosted a workshop at the White House while announcing a new White House report entitled: “Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students.”

The Obamas are leading an effort to urge more than 100 colleges to commit to expand college opportunities for low-income students, many of whom are African American. Several educators from historically black colleges attended the White House workshop Thursday, including administrators from Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Cheyney University, and Morgan State University.

COMMENTARY: Michelle Obama Celebrates 50 By Exercising, Empowering Black Students and Dancing at the White House  was originally published on

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