When one teen in the White House Mentorship and Leadership Program told President Barack Obama that he hoped to become attorney general one day, Obama broke down some of the steps the student would need to take in order to get closer to that goal.
"I walked him through all the other steps: He had to go to college; he had to graduate from college; you had to take the L-S-A-T—the LSAT; he had to get into a law school," Obama said during the program's graduation ceremony at the White House on Monday.
"I took 10 minutes just going through the whole path … and I thought maybe that would make Gerard back off a little bit," the president explained. "Instead he said, 'OK.' He didn’t seem too fazed by it."
A few weeks later—probably at the president's request—Gerard was able to shadow then-Attorney General Eric Holder. That's how the mentorship program worked: Teens from the Washington, D.C., metro area were assigned mentors who worked in the Obama administration. The teens attended programs in the White House during the year to strengthen them academically and professionally.
During the ceremony, Obama bid farewell to the more than two dozen students who completed the program. The president described how encouraged he is by "just how resilient these young people are" and gave a special recognition to all the seniors in the group: "Every single one of them is going to college in the fall. And I’m going to give each of them a special shout-out," the president said, beaming.
Obama also bolstered the premise of the program: that every single successful person—including himself—needed help along the way from family members, community members and mentors who offered guidance and lent a helping hand.
"One of the things that I think we all have to understand as a country is that we all do better when everybody has a shot. This idea that somehow we succeed just on our own is just not true," Obama said.