By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Michelle Obama came to San Jose Friday to promote her new autobiography, “Becoming.” But before her sold-out talk at the SAP Center, Obama spent time with youth leaders at a community center reminding them of her first forays into public service.

The former first lady met the members of Public Allies, a youth leadership nonprofit at the Seven Trees Community Center. Long before she stepped into the national limelight, Mrs. Obama was a co-founder of Public Allies on the south side of Chicago, where she grew up.

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“Public Allies was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Mrs. Obama to assembled group. Public Allies has grown to 25 chapters across the United States, including one based at the San Jose Community Center.

“All around the country I’m running into Ally Alums and they are doing some amazing things.  So the future is bright and the work is powerful,” Mrs. Obama said.

Public Allies prepares young people for government and non-profit careers.

At one point, Mrs. Obama was asked about how to handle failure. “You have to get out of your way and not worry about other people’s
perceptions of your failures, because there are double standards. There is hypocrisy, there are different measures,” she said.

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“We still live in an unequal society.”

One participant said she has admired Mrs. Obama since childhood.

“Mrs. Obama is cool handed, very level headed, so being able to reach across borders and across boundaries is something that resonates with me,” said Public Allies member Alysyn Martinez.

There was no public access to the event, but crowds gathered outside the community center.

Violet Martinez strained to see Mrs. Obama in person.

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“I don’t know, she just has class and everything she says is positive.  She is a great person to look up to,” Martinez said before Mrs. Obama was whisked away from the event by her Secret Service detail.