“Reaching Higher” and “Letting Girls Learn” – Michelle Obama on Continuing the Fight for Global Education Expansion

In her recent Vogue cover story, the First Lady and “mother in chief,” Michelle Obama discusses her fight to expand worldwide education access over the past eight years and the future of her legacy.

During her tenure, Mrs. Obama has undeniably served as a leading champion in worldwide education access. Initially, the Harvard-educated lawyer tackled numerous issues such as supporting military families and tackling childhood obesity by launching and serving as the face of the Let’s Move initiative. While the First Lady has always openly spoken about the importance of obtaining an education, it was the First Family’s second White House term that encouraged her aspirations to prioritize education expansion efforts worldwide and make her mark as an educational powerhouse with the launching of two major education initiatives, Let Girls Learn and Reach Higher. She credits an experience with a high school counselor telling her, “I’m not sure if you’re Princeton material” and her doubts during her undergraduate career at Princeton University for her passion to encourage students worldwide to continue their educational pursuits.

During her interview, Mrs. Obama assures us that her efforts to fight for education access and enhancement worldwide will not conclude with the end of her husband’s presidential term, stating that she will “Take the same approach leaving as coming in.” She also states that she plans to continue speaking at educational institutions at every level after her departure from the White House, acknowledging the influence she and her story have had on the youth who admire her.

Here at PopEd, we too understand the importance of global education access. Much like the Let Girls Learn initiative’s goal of providing education equity to young girls in developing countries, Population Education emphasizes the importance of increasing educational opportunities for women and girls by increasing awareness of the ripple effect the improved quality of life of women has on the collective community. PopEd provides several lessons highlighting the importance of the global status of women such as Lessons for Life, which identifies the links between female literacy and status to population growth by discussing and interpreting the stories of two girls from Ethiopia, and Maria’s Education, a lesson from PopEd’s Spanish/English curriculum Nuestro Mundo, Nuestro Futuro (Our World, Our Future), which uses a short-story and graph analysis to guide discussion concerning the impacts of teen pregnancy and how individual decisions and status affect population growth.

Listed below, are five quotes from the First Lady to keep in mind while moving forward as leaders in our purpose as education advocates.

1.)    “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”

2.)    “There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”

3.)    “You may not always have a comfortable life, and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

4.)    “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”

5.)    “The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table – all of that starts with education.”