The First Lady will deliver their commencement address – under certain conditions

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Updated September 11, 2009 05:25 PM
Credit: Samantha Appleton

Turning this year s commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks into a day of service, First Lady Michelle Obama picked up a paint brush on Friday – and laid down a friendly bet. If George Washington University students in Washington, D.C., can put in 100,000 hours of volunteer work by spring, she says, she will be their commencement speaker.

“My challenge to the GW community is to make service a daily part of their lives,” said Mrs. Obama, who, along with President Obama, helped two underclassmen kick off the count by painting walls in a Habitat for Humanity house in northeast Washington.

“Michelle was always checking up on the president, like, ‘How’s your section looking over there?’ and making sure he was getting his work done,” said one of the students, senior Shakir Cannon-Moye, 20, of Edgewater Park, N.J. The Obamas both asked, ‘Where s the music?.’ Cannon-Moye added. “And then she joked, ‘Since there s no music, maybe Barack should sing.’ ”

It was a lighthearted scene on a day of solemn memorials to those killed in the 2001 attacks, including a service the Obamas attended at the Pentagon earlier. Some 1,500 GWU freshman fanned out across Washington on volunteer projects counting toward that 100,000-hour goal.

Student Association President Julie Bindelglass, a junior, said Mrs. Obama was already counting on having to make good on her wager. “She made a joke about having to start writing her speech now.”