First lady Michelle Obama took part in a panel discussion that included Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Sophia Bush, and Diane Warren at South by Southwest, the annual music, film, and tech festival in Austin, Texas.
During the discussion, Obama spoke about being inspired to launch the â€œLet Girls Learnâ€ initiative. She said that growing up as a black girl on Chicagoâ€™s South Side, she felt that expectations of her were â€œlimited.â€
â€œAs I was trying to make my way and do good in school and apply to good colleges, there were always people around telling me what I couldnâ€™t do, always telling me how far I should only dreamâ€¦â€
Obama said that â€œdoubtersâ€ can be good as they â€œgive you strength.â€
The first lady said that there were still too many doubters of young people, especially of girls. She cited egregious cases of abuse of young women including the shooting of Malala Yousafzai for advocating education for young women in Pakistan, and of the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls by terrorists.
â€œThere are 62 million young girls who are not in school around the world, adolescent girls who arenâ€™t getting an education because there are cultural norms that keep them down.Â They have limited recessâ€”or resources. They canâ€™t pay their school fees. The schools are too far. They donâ€™t have bathrooms. They canâ€™t go to school when they start to menstruate,â€ said Obama on why â€œLet Girls Learnâ€ is so critical.
Obama also spoke about using her position as first lady for doing good.
â€œEvery day I wake up, itâ€™s like, good Lord, please make sure that Iâ€™m being relevant, that Iâ€™m having impact, that Iâ€™m making the difference, particularly in the lives of young people.”
â€œTo the work that weâ€™re doing to educate girls around the worldâ€”that impacts us. I mean, you think of the world’s problems, and we know from the statistics that girls who are educated, they raise healthier kids; lower HIV rates. It can boost an entire countryâ€™s GDP, having more educated women.â€
The first lady also said that once the Obamas leave the White House, the work is not done.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to keep working on these issues. These are not issues that go away in a presidential term. They donâ€™t go away in a lifetime. And why I work so much with young people is that you all are going to be the ones who take on these issues. Youâ€™re going to be the one that carries these things over the finish lineâ€”whether itâ€™s climate change, or global education, or health and fitnessâ€¦â€