First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her first solo weekly presidential address today, decrying the abduction of hundreds of young girls in Nigeria and pledging that her husband has directed the U.S. government to do all it can to bring them home.
She also used the address to reaffirm a commitment toward education for women, noting the girls had known about the danger of studying at the school, but still returned to take their exams.
"What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident," said Obama, noting that "in these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams."
But she said it's a story repeated "as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions."
She noted Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan spoke out for girls’ education in her community…and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.
"As Malala said in her address to the United Nations," Obama said, " 'The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.' ”
Obama said the "courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action. Because right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school."
She said girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives, and have healthier families and that when girls attend secondary school, their country’s economy benefits.
"And that’s true right here in the U.S. as well…so I hope the story of these Nigerian girls will serve as an inspiration for every girl – and boy – in this country," she said. "I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted – any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out – I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education."