(CNN) - "We think that everybody in this country needs to watch this movie," gushed Michelle Obama, as scores of students from across the country joined her in the State Dining Room of the White House Tuesday.
The film she had just seen was "42," based on the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in modern Major League Baseball. And her respect for the moment in history was not lost.
"You're left just asking yourselves, how on Earth did they live through that?" she wondered about the tumultuous time of the pre-civil rights era of the 1940s and 1950s. "How did they do it? How did they endure the taunts and the bigotry for all of that time?"
The first lady hosted an interactive student workshop at the White House to discuss the movie. Among those joining her on stage was actor Harrison Ford, who plays Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in the movie.
"This film gives the audience the experience of being there. The experience of feeling viscerally what it was like to meet the challenges that Jackie and Rachel faced," said Ford.
The Rachel that Ford speaks of is Rachel Robinson - the baseball hero's widow. Her husband died in 1972 at age 53. She served as a consultant as the movie was being developed.
Robinson was also present at the White House and was candid when she told high school and college students in attendance that America is on its way but isn't there just yet.
"We have made great social progress in America, but we still have a lot of work to do," she said.
Robinson added that she's hopeful the movie will keep people - especially young people - striving to reach their maximum potential. "It will inspire many of you to think about your own lives and do what you can do with the opportunities that come your way," she said.
The first lady emphasized that there are things many Americans may not be aware of when it comes to Jackie Robinson. "Jackie Robinson certainly was a tremendous athlete," said Obama. "But he was so much more than that. He bravely served in our armed forces. He attended college at UCLA."
The First Lady also told the students in attendance that Rachel Robinson was a strong and independent person in her own right.
"Rachel Robinson was in every way his equal, ladies - in every way his equal. She made her education a priority. She worked hard in school. She eventually became a nurse."
Obama closed her speech by telling the students that discrimination is still present in our society but what matters is how we respond to it.
"You must get your education and demand more of yourself every single day," she said. "You have to pick up yourself when somebody knocks you down - because you will get knocked down. But to do all of that, you have to put the work in."
The movie "42" opens nationwide on April 12.