Michelle Obama has reunited with two London schools, joining their current and former pupils for a one-hour Zoom, to mark the paperback and younger reader editions of bestseller Becoming (Penguin).
The former First Lady chatted to students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington and Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets on 31st March about mentorship, sisterhood, motivation and leadership, as well as the impact of Covid-19 and the past year.
She told them: “Conversations like these keep me optimistic. Meeting all of you, watching your growth... you all give me hope. Listening to how thoughtful and insightful you are, how resilient and determined you've been, how strong and capable you are.”
BBC One’s “The One Show” will be airing an exclusive film about the event this evening (1st April); a video of the full conversation between Obama and the students will then be released by Penguin on its YouTube channel, at 7.30 p.m. The event will also be shared with schools across the country by Penguin Talks, a programme of free talks and curriculum packs for young people.
Obama has a long-running relationship with both schools. As she wrote in Becoming, she first visited Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in 2009 and has stayed in touch ever since. In 2011, she took a group of its pupils to Oxford University when she gave a talk to Christ Church College, and in 2012 she welcomed 12 students to the White House. In 2018, she returned to do another event at the EGA school when she visited the UK for the publication of her memoir.
Recalling the visit in her book, she wrote: “They were me, as I’d once been. And I was them, as they could be. The energy I felt thrumming in the school had nothing to do with obstacles. It was the power of 900 girls striving… Looking up at the girls, I just began to talk, explaining though I had come from far away, carrying this strange title of First Lady of the United States, I was more like them than they knew.”
Headteacher Sarah Beagley said: “Mrs Obama has been a part of EGA since her first visit 12 years ago, before our year seven students today were born. Since 2009 she has stayed true to her word, continuing to connect with us in multiple ways, and remains a truly inspirational figure for generations of EGA students. Her story, her passion and her determination to make a difference to the lives of others resonates completely with the values of EGA and we are proud and delighted that she values her relationship with us as much as we do with her."
Obama first visited Mulberry School for Girls in 2015 to launch her “Let Girls Learn” campaign, speaking about the importance of girls’ education globally. This inspired Mulberry girls to join the movement, and they established Global Girl Leading following Obama’s invitation to them to visit her in the White House. Since then, Mulberry has stayed connected with her.
Dr Vanessa Ogden, c.e.o. and headteacher of Mulberry School for Girls, said: "At Mulberry School for Girls, students past and present are so excited about the launch of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, especially adapted for young readers. Childhood and adolescence are such a formative period. Learning from Mrs Obama—one of the greatest, most inspiring women of our time—could not be more important. Her use of her platform to drive change for girls is critical, breaking down barriers to education and building a sisterhood of young women advocating for each other. Mulberry is deeply grateful to Mrs Obama for her generosity and support for our girls, providing many opportunities for them to have a voice and inspiring them to found Global Girl Leading as a legacy of her relationship with us.”
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