Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Michelle: London Girls Gave Me a Boost; Former First Lady Tells How School Visit Allowed Her to Realise New Role

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Michelle: London Girls Gave Me a Boost; Former First Lady Tells How School Visit Allowed Her to Realise New Role

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Deputy Political Editor

MICHELLE OBAMA today said speaking to schoolgirls in inner-city London had made her feel her "old self" for the first time since becoming first lady of the United States.

Barack Obama's wife explained how she had bonded immediately with the pupils as she saw how they would have to fight the "invisibility that comes with being poor, female and of colour".

On a visit to Britain in 2009, she was invited to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington.

About 200 pupils were gathered in a hall to watch a performance by fellow schoolchildren and hear Mrs Obama's first speech abroad as first lady.

She had been in the White House for two months and had felt at times "overwhelmed by the pace, unworthy of the glamour, anxious about our children, and uncertain of my purpose".

Explaining in her memoir, Becoming, how public life can strip away a person's identity, she adds: "But here, finally, speaking to those girls, I felt something completely different and pure -- an alignment of my old self with this new role."

In a moving passage, she details how watching pupils perform a Shakespeare scene, a modern dance, and a "beautiful rendition" of a Whitney Houston song, "something inside me began to quake".

"I almost felt myself falling backward into my own past," she adds. "You had only to look around at the faces in the room to know that despite their strengths these girls would need to work hard to be seen.

"There were girls in hijab, girls for whom English was a second language, girls whose skin made up every shade of brown They'd need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor, female and of colour." But Mrs Obama, now 54, saw "hope" in many of the faces at the school which had been ranked as "outstanding" by Ofsted despite being in a deprived area and having pupils speaking 55 different languages. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.