WASHINGTON – Not every high school student gets the opportunity to be received by the first lady of the United States in the White House’s state dining room and ask questions of senior staff members. But that’s exactly what five seniors and one junior from Elizabeth Seton High School did Wednesday.
The students from the all-female Catholic prep school in Bladensburg were among a group of girls and young women received by Michelle Obama at the White House, ahead of President Barack Obama’s official dinner with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron.
A small delegation from National Cathedral School in Washington had a table as well. From the United Kingdom, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London sent 12 girls.
Michelle Obama spoke briefly before introducing Brooke D. Anderson, chief of staff to the National Security Council, and Cristeta Comerford, White House executive chef.
“We’re very proud of all of you, because all of you have shown a level of dedication … a level of leadership,” Obama told the students. “Love you guys. Have fun.”
Obama left Anderson to explain the contours of the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom, a term she said originated with Winston Churchill, who served as the latter country’s prime minister for much of World War II.
“There really are few nations that do so much together and have so much in common,” said Anderson, heralding the countries’ joint efforts in combat, diplomacy, business, science and education. “These visits are really an incredible opportunity to do important business.”
Anderson, who previously served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Security Council, said she was reassured during her time at the United Nations by the presence of three women — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and herself — leading the U.S. delegation to the global body.
“Back when I was your age, I never, never imagined I’d be working at the White House,” Anderson said. “You can achieve anything you put your mind to.”
Comerford, who became the first female White House executive chef in 2005, expressed her pleasure at having broken that “incredible” gender barrier.
“When I see you, I see myself when I was that age,” Comerford said, responding to a British student’s question about who inspired her. “Just that drive, that fascination with the world.”
Anderson, discussing career pathways with one of the Elizabeth Seton students, promised to help her get in touch with someone at the Office of Management and Budget, where the student said she hopes to one day work.
Sister Ellen Marie Hagar, Elizabeth Seton’s president, said the students who were selected were chosen “for their ability to be ambassadors” for the school, as well as for their academic achievement and level of interest.
“They do the right thing all the time,” Hagar said. “And this is just an occasion (for us) to say, ‘We do notice, and we are very proud of you.'”