Win or lose on Nov. 4, Barack Obama's presidential candidacy has started a movement for change among young Americans that will have a lasting positive effect, Michelle Obama said Monday. Before addressing 4,500 people, many of them students, at Macalester College, the candidate's wife spoke with editorial writer Lori Sturdevant about the impact of this year's presidential race on the Millennial Generation, the children of the baby boomers who grew up in the 1990s and in this decade. Here are excerpts of their conversation:

How do you explain your campaign's appeal to young people?

For so long, politicians have kind of written young people off, maybe because of their low voter registration, their low voter turnout. Barack wasn't going to do that. His view is you have to reach out and connect to them.

We've got the guy who set up Facebook working with our campaign. We have one of the most sophisticated and complex online systems for talking to young people. We've even been recruiting in high schools. You teach them that politics is relevant to their lives. When you do that, they are engaged. They are not fair-weather supporters. They don't get tarnished by a little negativity. In fact, I think that just gins them up even more.

My son is teaching at a high school in your neighborhood in Chicago. He's told me he is worried that if your campaign loses, his students will lose trust in the American system. What would you say to those students?

What this campaign should show them, win or lose, is that they are in charge of their own destinies. What I would want them to take away is, first of all, how prepared Barack has been for this -- that he went to school, studied hard, got the best education he could, worked in the community. His life is a good road map for young people.

They should look at how Barack continued to push, through doubts about the possibility of his candidacy. I tell young people, "Don't let anyone define your dreams or set limits on your possibilities. You are in charge of your destiny, if you are prepared." This year is a winning year, no matter the outcome.

My son also said his students' expectations are sky-high for dramatic improvement in their lives if your husband is elected. How would you respond to that thinking?

Barack's not promising the moon. He's said all along, "This election is not about me. It's about all of us." Change doesn't happen from the top down; it happens from the bottom up. It requires everyone to work.

The grass-roots nature of this campaign is an attempt to change the mentality that things get fixed for us. That if we just go about our business and not focus on this complicated thing called democracy, we'll be OK. Well, the truth of the matter is, nothing will change if we as citizens don't stay informed and involved.

A fraction of the solutions to our challenge is getting a good leader. A huge portion of what we have to do is be a country that can be led, and is willing to work.

To young people, Barack says, "Yes, we need better schools. We need better funding for schools. We need better teachers. We need to pay them. But students also have to be in school. They have to work hard, stay out of trouble, do their homework." There's a duality to accountability. It's not just the system being accountable to us. We have to be accountable to the system.

Last week on the Larry King program [on CNN], you said you would like to be an advocate for working women and families as First Lady. What do you have in mind?

I've spent 20 months traveling around the country, having conversations with working women and families. I hear, how do I manage a career or a job, and ensure that my kids are healthy and have what they need, and make sure I'm not losing my mind in the process of juggling it all?

What I've found is that these families don't have the resources they need to make the balance work. It's very difficult to make this work if you don't have a strong family-leave policy, for example, where folks have sick days to be sick or take care of sick kids or elderly parents.

The conversations have extended to military families. Lay on two, three, four tours of duty, with reservists' families who don't live on a base, among other military families. They're not working at a job where the boss is going to give them time off to get ready for deployment. These families are still losing their homes to foreclosure. Their wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living. They don't have child care.

What I can do is help Barack stay connected to those stories. I don't want him, or me, to ever be disconnected from what's going on, from the real struggles people are having.