Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady During the Girls Leading Our World Camp Presentations in Kakata, Liberia

June 27, 2016

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you to Carrie, Becky. To all of the volunteers and staff here at the -- from Liberia.

But I want to start where Carrie ended -- with the girls who are here. I am just so thrilled to be here with you. I have heard so much about each of you. I have read about you. I've heard about the challenges that you face, but, more importantly, I've heard about how hard you're working to be, as Carrie said, role models and leaders in your community. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to be here -- to shine a big, bright light on you. And it doesn't get much bigger and brighter than this. (Applause.)

So I want to hear from you, so we're going to spend a lot of time with me being very quiet and you telling me all about the work you're doing, your stories, things you want me to know. This is the first of a three-country tour that I'm doing. We left Washington, D.C. yesterday; I'm traveling with my mother and my two daughters, Malia and Sasha. (Applause.) This is the special girl-power unit of the Obama household. (Laughter.) We left the President behind because he's a boy. (Laughter.)

In all seriousness, it's always a privilege to travel with my mom and my daughters, because I want them to see the world. I want them to get to know your stories and understand what you go through and just how hard you're working to get your education. And I want girls around the world to hear that story.

So after we leave Liberia, we're traveling today to Marrakech, where we're going to see a whole other set of girls in Marrakech. We're going to learn about their challenges and their triumphs as well. And then a few days later, I'm going to travel to Madrid to speak to some young women there. Because, as you may or may not know, while you guys are working hard here and doing your best to get your education, there are 62 million girls around the world that don't have these opportunities. And, as Carrie said, when women aren't educated, when girls don't get the chance to go to school and fulfill that potential, that hurts all of us -- not just here in this country, but all of us around the world.

And when I learned about these 62 million girls, I was angry. I thought, how on Earth can we sit by -- particularly in places like the U.S. where we have so many resources and we have some girls that don't go to school not because they can't, they can't afford it, but because they don't know the importance of it -- how can we sit by when there are so many girls who would give anything to go to school? And you are among those girls who are doing everything in their power -- that's why I'm so proud of you.

One of the reasons we're working with the Peace Corps is that we know to really resolve these issues, we have to change culture. We have to change the norms that say that girls aren't worthy of an education. And that's why this GLOW program is so important. You are important. You are worthy of an education. You're going to be mothers, and it's so important for you to have the confidence and the intelligence and the knowledge to raise beautiful, healthy kids yourself. That's how we change generations. That's how we grow as nations and as a world.

You have an important mission as women. And to do that well, you've got to have your education. So no matter what anybody tells you, I want you to keep fighting. Stay in school. Go to secondary school. Go to university if you can. And then, when you do all that, I want you to continue to be the leaders that you are and come back to your communities, and find other girls just like you who are working and striving -- and they need your support.

We are going to change the way the world thinks about women and girls, aren't we? (Applause.) So to the volunteers, welcome home. Because I know that we are back in Liberia. And we are so happy to have the Peace Corps back in this wonderful country. I am proud of you all as well. Malia is going to be taking a gap year, so we in our family believe in taking time away from the rush of your lives to give back in a meaningful way -- whether it's on the South Side of Chicago, or here in Liberia.

So I am so proud of you all, because we can't do what we do without you all doing the work on the ground here over a long period of time -- many of you, I know, are going to be here for two years or more; some of you are on your way back. But this work is vitally important.

And I want to shine a light on you all for all the young people, or the not-so-young people, as far as the Peace Corps is concerned --

MS. HESSLER-RADELET: That's right.

MRS. OBAMA: The Peace Corps takes them at all ages. (Laughter.) If you want to have some meaning in your life, do this. This is a valuable, worthwhile experience. And, as Carrie said, you will get way more than you'll ever give.

So you all continue to do the great work. Know you have a First Lady who is thinking about you and cares about you and is proud of you. And just so the other Peace Corps volunteers understand, you don't always get a visit from the First Lady in your first few days. (Laughter.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady During the Girls Leading Our World Camp Presentations in Kakata, Liberia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320866

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