The White House Blog: The First Lady

  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Connecting Continents

    First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout on educatio

    First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout on education at the Sci Bono Discovery Center in in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 29, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Today, through the wonders of technology, we brought together students here in South Africa with students across the U.S. who joined us through a Google+ Hangout for a lively town hall about the importance of education.  Singer and songwriter John Legend – who’s passionate about improving education – joined us from Los Angeles.  And singer and actress, Victoria Justice – who works with an organization called Girl Up that empowers girls around the world – beamed in from Houston. 

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Google + Hangout on education at the Sci Bono Discovery Center

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Google + Hangout on education at the Sci Bono Discovery Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 29, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: My Return to South Africa

    Today, we arrived in South Africa, and I couldn’t be more excited, because two years ago, I visited this country for the first time with my mother and daughters, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. 

    On that visit, I met with young women leaders from across the continent who were serving their countries and their communities – educating young people, providing job training for women, working to combat poverty and violence and disease – often in the face of impossible odds.  I also had the chance to spend time with young people from here in South Africa: I danced with children at a daycare center, visited the University of Cape Town with local high school students, and took part in a children’s soccer clinic at one of the stadiums used in the 2010 World Cup.

    I also had the chance to meet President Nelson Mandela at his home in Johannesburg, an experience that I will never forget.  Mandela – or “Madiba” as he’s referred to in South Africa – is truly a giant in world history.  As a young man, he led a movement against Apartheid – the South African government’s policies that discriminated against people of color, forcing them to live in separate neighborhoods and attend separate schools and prohibiting them from even voting in national elections.  For his defiance, Mandela was jailed for 27 years, and his struggle became a source of inspiration for people all around the world.

    Mrs. Obama Meets With Former South African President Nelson Mandela

    First Lady Michelle Obama meets with former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa at his home in Houghton, South Africa, June 21, 2011. Mrs. Obama viewed items from President Mandela's archives earlier during a tour of the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Visiting Goree Island

    After our visit to the Martin Luther King School, we boarded a ferry to Goree Island, a small island off Senegal’s coast. For roughly three hundred years until the mid-1840s, countless men, women and children from Africa were kidnapped from their homes and communities and brought to this island to be sold as slaves. 

    On our tour of the island, we saw the dark, cramped cells where dozens of people were packed together for months on end, with heavy chains around their necks and arms.  We saw the courtyard where they were forced to stand naked while buyers examined them, negotiated a price, and bought them as if they were nothing but property. And we saw what is known as “The Door of No Return,” a small stone doorway through which these men, women and children passed on their way to massive wooden ships that carried them across the ocean to a life of slavery in the United States and elsewhere – a brutal journey known as the “Middle Passage”. 


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: An Example to Follow

    After having a lovely tea with Mrs. Sall, the First Lady of Senegal, we headed to the Martin Luther King (MLK) school, an all-girls middle school in Dakar, which is Senegal’s capital city. I had a chance to speak to about 150 members of the ninth grade class and their teachers. The girls put on a wonderful dance performance and delivered presentations they had prepared – in excellent English (they normally speak French). One of them even performed Etta James' "At Last," and she absolutely blew me away – let me tell you, that young woman could sing. 

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks in Senegal

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks as she and First Lady Marème Sall visit Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school, in Dakar, Senegal. June 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    The First Lady talks with students

    First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in their classroom during a visit to Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school, in Dakar, Senegal. June 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    The more time I spent with these extraordinary young women – girls living halfway across the world from where I was born in raised – the more I saw how similar their stories are to my own. Like my own parents, many of these girls’ parents never had the chance to get the kind of education they hoped for. And like the family I grew up in, many of their families don’t have much money. 

    But no matter what challenges these girls are facing in their lives, they come to school every day eager to learn, and they spend hours each night studying and doing their homework. They also work hard to develop themselves as leaders, running their own student government and meeting with distinguished women leaders, including a number of CEOs and high-ranking government officials. And their hard work is paying off – students from MLK perform very well on their exams, and girls who graduate from this school go on to become accomplished businesswomen, scientists, artists, athletes and more. 


  • Connecting Continents: Join a Google+ Hangout with First Lady Michelle Obama from South Africa

    This week, the First Lady is joining President Obama on an official visit to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. During the trip, Mrs. Obama will meet with young people across the continent and highlight the power of education.

    On Saturday, June 29th, the First Lady is hosting a special event that will connect young people in South Africa with young people in the U.S. to discuss the importance of education and our shared future -- and you can be a part of it. Here's how:

    During this event, in conjunction with MTV Base, an African youth and music TV channel, and Google+, the First Lady and MTV Base VJ Sizwe Dhlomo will join students in South Africa for a virtual discussion with young people in cities around the U.S., including:

    • Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation that unites girls to change the world, will join from Houston, Texas. In addition to the students joining the hangout, Girl Up is hosting dozens of watch parties around the country.
    • John Legend and students involved in his Show Me Campaign, a global campaign fighting for equal access to quality education, will join from Los Angeles, California.
    • Y Global Teens, a YMCA program that provides underprivileged youth with an international service learning experience, will join from New York City. Through the program, these students will visit the Cape Town YMCA.
    • From Google Fiber Space in Kansas City, participants will join that are part of the KC STEM Alliance to promote and inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math education

    This Google+ Hangout with the First Lady kicks off a series of global virtual field trips on Google+ that will launch in the school year. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in events with the State Department, Global Nomads Group, a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural exchanges, and others. Check out the Global Nomads Google+ Community to connect with peers around the world right now and stay engaged.


  • Traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania

    President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and members of the First Family are welcomed at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport In Yoff, Senegal

    President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and members of the First Family are welcomed at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport In Yoff, Senegal, June 26, 2013. Senegal President Macky Sall, left, and First Lady Marème Sall greeted the Obamas upon their arrival to Senegal. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Yesterday, President Obama, his family, and the U.S. delegation began our trip to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, as part of our commitment to invest in Africa’s development and its people. It is my first trip to these countries, and I look forward to meeting new faces from each country.

    In 2010, President Obama hosted a forum with 115 young leaders from more than 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They traveled more than 4,000 miles to discuss the continent’s future and promise at the White House and State Department. The young leaders embraced the challenge of leading sub-Saharan Africa for the next generation, and this week, we are excited to meet more young people who are taking up the mantle.

    We all know that Africa is a new center of global growth, and is creating more opportunities for its people than ever before.  The challenge is to ensure these gains are expanded to benefit all Africans. 

    As such, during this trip, President Obama will highlight three major themes:

    First, increasing U.S. trade and investment.  We are redoubling our efforts to create an environment that enables greater trade, and investment, through encouraging regional integration, legal reforms that break down barriers to the free flow of goods, and services, greater transparency, and anti-corruption measures.

    President Obama will also highlight the need to increase access to electricity, and expand trade, and investment. I will be participating in roundtables with United States Trade Representative Mike Froman to highlight business opportunities between the United States, and African countries. We will also discuss our effective partnerships on food security, and global health, which are delivering results by reducing hunger, and under-nutrition, improving child survival, and moving people out of poverty.


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Kicking Off Our Trip to Africa

    Today, my husband, President Obama, and I, along with our daughters, are heading to Africa – to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania – and we want young people all across America to join us!

    This is such an important trip because Africa is such an important partner to the United States on so many of the issues facing our world today – from climate change and terrorism, to poverty and disease, to the challenge of creating jobs in our global economy. And more than ever before, our success here in the U.S. is tied to the success of other countries around the world – in so many ways, we will all rise or fall together. So it’s critical that young people like you develop a global perspective as citizens of the world – it’s critical that you follow not just what’s happening in the news here in the U.S., but what’s happening all around the world, including the international travels and policies of our President. Because when it comes to the issues our countries face, young people like you – both here in the United States and across Africa – will have to work together to lead the way. In the coming years, you all will be building the businesses, and making the scientific discoveries, and drafting the laws and policies that will move our countries – and our world – forward for decades to come.

    That’s why, when I visited Africa back in 2011, I spent most of my time with passionate, dynamic, inspiring young people, listening to their stories and sharing my own. I also had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest heroes that Africa – and the world – has ever known: former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. President Mandela is in the hospital right now, and he is very much in our thoughts and prayers. I’ll be writing more about President Mandela’s extraordinary contributions to history – and what we can all do in our own lives to live up to his legacy – in future blog posts.


  • Goodwill Commits to Engaging Women Veterans

    Ophthalmologist Assistant Juanita Williams

    Ophthalmologist Assistant Juanita Williams smiles while describing her experiences at a Joining Forces event hosted by Goodwill Industries International. (Photo from Goodwill Industries International)

    Today, Goodwill Industries International announced that it is launching a new initiative that aims to assist 3,000 women veterans over the next two years.

    By the year 2020, women will represent over 10 percent of our nation’s veteran population. The new and expanded “Goodwill Serving America’s Heroes” initiative will take a holistic approach to the success of women leaving the Armed Forces by providing assistance with childcare costs, housing, support for those with disabilities, and connections to employers, to name a few. 

    Juanita Williams, currently employed as an ophthalmologist assistant, is a Navy veteran who utilized the services offered by Goodwill. She shared her opinion on Goodwill’s efforts. “Coming out of the service, we need this," she said. "We need these services that help us get back on our feet. They’ve helped me with child care, résumé writing classes, interview techniques and, of course, finding my employer.”


  • West Wing Week: 06/07/13 or “Cooler at Night"

    This week, the President urged Congress not to let student loan rates double and to confirm three judges for the federal appeals court in Washington, held bilateral meetings with the NATO Secretary-General and the President of Chile, kicked off a National Conference on Mental Health, honored the Super Bowl champions, and announced a major new initiative called ConnectED, while the Vice President wrapped up a weeklong trip to South America. That's May 31st to June 6th or, "Cooler at Night."


  • West Wing Week: 05/31/13 or "Greetings from Asbury Park"

    This week, the President spoke to the graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, traveled to Oklahoma and New Jersey to highlight recovery efforts, and honored Memorial Day with the First Lady at Arlington National Cemetery.