Michelle Obama has told a group of inner-city school pupils in east London, “the world needs more girls like you”.
Ear-splitting screaming and cheering from students greeted the US First Lady when she visited Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets today. They heard Mrs Obama tell them that, as someone who is black, female and also comes from a working-class background, she understands the need for a good education.
She told a packed assembly at the school for pupils aged 11 to 18 that she understands the challenge of being “overlooked” and undervalued.
Mrs Obama said: “With an education from this amazing school you all have every chance you need to rise above the noise and fulfil every one of your dreams.”
She added: “The world needs more girls like you to lead our parliaments, our boardrooms and our universities. We need you for tackling the problems of climate change, poverty and disadvantage.”
Mrs Obama told the girls she could understand how it feels to be “lost in the shuffle” and that she never would have believed she would one day be the First Lady of the US.
She also told them it can be difficult to feel comfortable when people are saying things about your religion and you have to face those who need to “see beyond the headscarf”.
The wife of US President Barack Obama, she is in Britain to promote the Let Girls Learn initiative, championed by her husband. The campaign is billed as “working together to open the doors of education for girls around the world”.
During her visit to Mulberry School, Mrs Obama, who had earlier been joined for a round-table discussion by international development secretary Justine Greening and education secretary Nicky Morgan, said the US and UK would be joining forces to try to improve access to education for girls internationally as globally there are around 62 million girls who are not in school.
Mrs Obama’s advice to the girls in the packed hall was that the trials and tribulations they face could help to make them great.
She told them: “Resilience and the ability to overcome obstacles is success. Take those challenges you are facing and own them. With every challenge you overcome, you are becoming better.
“Don’t just be book-smart, be smart about the world – know your community, know your politics.
“You have to be informed and engaged all the time – not just when you think it is interesting or cool. As young women, we have to be interested in politics. You have to think about your whole education.”
Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, who is chairman of the Global Partnership for Education, also took part in the series of talks aimed at inspiring the youngsters.