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Detroit — Michelle Obama made a surprise stop at the Motown Museum on Tuesday afternoon ahead of her book tour Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena, walking into a serious discussion about the challenges faced by young men of color in Detroit.

The former first lady brightened the room and immediately connected with the 18 Wayne State University students there as she began to share her own experience of fighting self-doubt from high school to college to the White House.

"What's happening, y'all?" Obama said, greeting the students, all men of color, gathered inside the museum for what they thought was a deep conversation with Obama's older brother, Craig Robinson, and Detroit native and actor Keegan-Michael Key.

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Robinson and Key had been talking to the young men about their experiences in life andcollege and offered advice that ranged from personal to educational to professional.

The students showed a mix of emotion to seeing Obama in their presence. Some gasped, some cheered and clapped their hands. Many of them smiled and laughed in disbelief that the former first lady had just crashed their talk inside the museum.

Obama took a seat next to her brother and began talking to the young men about their education at WSU. They asked Obama for tips on how to fight mental struggles, such as questioning whether they deserved to be in college and feeling the need to prove themselves to others.

"One question you should ask some people who approach you is why your status is being questioned versus anyone else's?" Obama told the students. "Universities are looking for a diverse array of experiences, people who come from different backgrounds. If everyone looked the same and experienced life the same way, what would these conversations be like? Just a bunch of people agreeing with each other."

Obama reminded the men they were admitted to college for a reason.

"You are the person who has to get out of your head. Because, trust me, it will continue beyond college," Obama said. "No matter where you go. There were people who thought Barack couldn't be a good president. There were people that questioned whether I could be a first lady ... that doesn't go away."

Key, who shared his personal experience of navigating higher education and an acting career, told the men if you are here, you are supposed to be here.

"Hard, because we have doubts flying around our mind all the time," Key said. "Don't make decisions out of fear, lack or greed."

Robinson, vice president of player and organizational development for the New York Knicks, told the men to practice what they are going to say when others challenge whether they deserve to be in college or elsewhere.

"There is nothing that makes you feel better — I learned this from my mom — than being able to tell people exactly what you mean," Robinson said.

Student Mister Whitfield, a criminal justice major, said he deals with being challenged, starting with being bullied for his first name and his sexuality. 

"My mom told me there is nothing more fearful than an educated black man. As long as I have that, it pushes me to do what I need to do to prove people wrong," Whitfield told Obama.

One student said he has learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Obama said she agreed.

"Discomfort is a thing you have to practice through. It gets through the point of fear. Think about how many people's lives have stopped because of fear," Obama said.

Sales for Obama’s memoir “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama” have topped 3 million, and the former first lady is extending her book tour into 2019.

“Becoming,” published four weeks ago, is among the fastest-selling nonfiction books in history and already among the best-selling political memoirs of all time.

Live Nation and Crown Publishing announced Tuesday that Obama will have 21 events next year, six of them in Europe. She has been appearing at such arenas as New York City’s Barclays Center and Chicago’s United Center, with guest interviewers including Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

Her tour is now scheduled to end May 12 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Becoming” describes Obama’s upbringing on Chicago’s South Side, as well as her time at Whitney Young and Princeton University. She writes about straddling economic and social worlds as a child and young adult.

But befitting its title, it takes readers on her journey of becoming a lawyer, wife of former President Barack Obama, mother of two girls, and, ultimately, her eight years in the White House.

Obama shares deeply personal revelations about racism as well as having a miscarriage. She sharply criticizes President Donald Trump for promoting the false “birther” rumor that her husband was not a U.S. citizen.

Obama’s husband will be next with a memoir, which is expected next year. The couple negotiated a multimillion-dollar deal with Crown Publishing Group. The Obamas have said they will donate a “significant portion” of their author proceeds to charity, including the Obama Foundation.

Tickets to Obama’s book tour, “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama,” will be given free of charge to community groups in Detroit.

The free tickets will go to Mercy Education Project, a group that provides educational opportunities, life skills and cultural enrichment for women and girls with limited resources.

Obama revealed that 10 percent of ticket inventory from each market would benefit local nonprofits, schools and other community groups.

Associated Press contributed.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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