Do you want to know what makes 1,000 middle school and high school girls go silent? Well, when Michelle Obama spouts her wealth of relatable wisdom, that’s exactly what happens.
At the Apollo Theater Tuesday morning, FLOTUS took the stage with a panel of incredible women to discuss the power and importance of girls’ education. Just this week, Mrs. Obama has vocally been lending her support to 62 Million Girls, the initiative to raise awareness about the 62 million girls worldwide who do not have access to education. Earlier this year, she and President Obama also started a government initiative called Let Girls Learn, committed to finding, “community-led solutions to reduce barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing their education.” In short, she has made no secret of her commitment to this important issue.
On Tuesday morning the First Lady addressed a crowd of girls who are right smack in the midst of getting their educations, and her message was loud and clear: Continue your studies, they are the key to your everything.
Mrs. Obama was joined on stage by a group of other incredible girls’ education crusaders including former Australian Primer Minister, Julia Gillard, a 16-year-old student activist from the Philippines, Nurfahada, and actress and starter of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program, Charlize Theron. Their massively-inspirational talk and Q&A session was moderated by Cindi Leive, the editor-in-chief of Glamour. If we could design a slumber party during which beautiful wisdom was thrown our way by women who run the world, that would be the way to describe the event.
While the school girls in the audience were excited to be at the Apollo, excited when Nico & Vinz unexpectedly took the stage, excited (most likely) to be out of their classrooms, what they were really excited about was the First Lady. And Mrs. Obama certainly did not disappoint them (or Charlize Theron).
Instead, the First Lady gave a hushed crowd of thousands some invaluable advice about boys, school, and perseverance; the kind of stuff you wish someone had told you when you were 16. It was advice that felt even more potent coming from the First Lady. Sasha and Malia, I hope you know how lucky you are, we have a pretty big crush on your mom.
Here are a few of the things Michelle Obama said that we will not soon forget.
“Let’s just be clear, you don’t want to be with a boy who’s too stupid to know and appreciate a smart young lady.”
I remember it well; in school there was always an underlying pressure to dumb down. Smart girls were intimidating, especially to the guys they had crushes on. But take it from FLOTUS: If the guy doesn’t understand how special it is to be smart, well then he’s just not for you.
“You can compete with the boys, beat the boys.”
Oh, she is so right. In fact, the whole inspirational quote this excerpt was derived from sent chills up my 28-year-old arms. I hope the younger girls in the room had the very same reaction. “Read, write, go to school, don’t be late, do your homework, get the best grades. You can compete with the boys, beat the boys . . . because you are all capable, but we have to spread that word and first and foremost we have to believe it to be true for ourselves.” Preach.
“Look if I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States today.”
Aside from this moment ending in a show stopping high-five between the First Lady and Charlize Theron, it was also preceded by this brilliant (slightly more relatable) piece of advice: “There is no boy at this age who is cute enough to stop you from getting your education.”
“You have to fill your bucket with positive energy, and if you have people hanging around you that are bringing you down and not lifting you up, whether that’s your ‘boo’ or your best friend, you have to learn how to push these people to the side.”
This nugget of wisdom might be hard to take, but it’s some of the best advice the First Lady gave. Negativity is contagious, and if you find yourself being dragged down by your group, your significant other, your bestie, well maybe it’s time to take a little break. You can only be your best self if you’re surrounded by people who make you feel that way too.
“Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail.”
We’ve heard it before and we’ll certainly hear it again, but somehow coming from the First Lady, the permission to fail suddenly makes everything feel a little more OK.
“The only thing that happens quickly is disaster.”
This aphorism should be hung above every desk, on every easel, in every writer’s notebook. The First Lady was talking about the plight of equalizing education amongst boys and girls, but her words extend so much further than that. “One thing I’ll say about change is that change happens incrementally,” she said. “Sometimes we think, in this world change is big. But the only thing that happens quickly is disaster. Change for the positive oftentimes is incremental — person by person, step by step. It’s hard, boring, tedious work — moving an issue forward a little more and a little bit more. But we can’t be discouraged.”
Hopefully some of this generous FLOTUS wisdom will give you a jolt of inspiration. It certainly did for me.
[Images via Shutterstock, Instagram]