Michelle Obama is best known as the former US First Lady, but long before becoming the wife of America’s first African American president, this strong and inspirational woman was changing the world.
With her history of taking practical steps to make social changes, and in particular her goal of empowering women, she has become a role model to many people.
Before meeting Barack Obama, Michelle was growing up on the south side of Chicago, where she was born in 1964. Her family emphasised the importance of education and Michelle excelled at school, going on to attend Princeton University.
She continued her education at Harvard Law School, where she took part in demonstrations calling for more minority students and professors. While working for Chicago’s Sidley Austin law firm in 1989, she met her future husband. Before they married in 1992, Michelle moved on to public service.
Starting out as the assistant commissioner of planning and development at City Hall in Chicago, eventually she became vice-president of community and external affairs at the Medical Centre in the University of Chicago.
She has spent her whole career engaging young people, while improving the community where she grew up.
As a truly modern-day, revolutionary woman, who has championed a multitude of important causes throughout her life, she has encouraged better education for girls, equal rights, healthy living and more help for families living in poverty.
Her own CV is pretty impressive: First Lady, lawyer, bestselling author of her memoirs (called “Becoming”), style icon and mother. When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, Michelle’s activism had an international platform.
In 2010, as First Lady, Michelle launched her Let’s Move initiative, aimed at addressing the childhood obesity problem gripping the United States. She urged kids to make healthy choices and campaigned for companies and schools to offer healthier eating options.
Michelle and Second Lady Jill Biden launched another initiative, Joining Forces, in 2011. It supported members of the armed forces, veterans and their families. It provided education, wellness and employment opportunities to help them succeed in life.
Michelle focused on education in 2014, inspiring children to succeed academically. She used her own upbringing to show what this could achieve, telling supporters of her Reach Higher initiative, “I am an example of what is possible when girls, from the very beginning of their lives, are loved and nurtured by people around them.”
She urged young people to continue their education beyond high school, giving themselves the tools to decide how to pursue their chosen path to the best of their abilities.
In 2015, she and Barack launched Let Girls Learn, encouraging girls to stay in school and asking the government to make a greater investment in their education. “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens,” she said.
Appealing directly to girls and young women, Michelle told them, “You don’t want to be with a boy who is too stupid to appreciate a smart young lady. There is no boy who is cute enough, or interesting enough, to stop you from getting your education.”
In his presidential farewell address, her husband publicly described Michelle as having done everything with “grace, grit, style and good humour.” Everything she does is done with passion, from breaking down stereotypes to removing the barriers for girls’ education.
She even made a guest appearance at the Grammy Awards, while her book made it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers’ list. There’s nothing that she can’t do and she continues to inspire people with her positive attitude.
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