If Michelle Obama wasn’t already your spirit animal, she’s about to become it. The First Lady is not just a frequent shopper at Target, but like most parents, is well-versed in the art of saying what she means without ever saying a word. And when she chooses to speak, she has a way of saying so much in so few words; delivering powerful messages with seemingly little effort, each word carefully oozing through you like warm butter — fast at first, but then slowing down as the impact of what she’s said becomes more concrete.

Speaking in Harlem on Tuesday at “The Power of an Educated Girl,” a panel discussion hosted by Glamour,  she didn’t mince any words when it came to telling the girls in the audience how to reduce the number of uneducated girls and women. Perhaps not surprisingly, books ranked a lot higher than boys.

“Compete with the boys. Beat the boys,” she said.

More surprisingly?

“There is no boy, at this age, cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting an education,” Mrs. Obama said. “If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States today.”

According to The Root, Mrs. Obama said the topic of girls and education is “personal.”

“When I think about those 62 million girls [around the world] that aren’t in school, I think about myself,” she said. “I think about my daughters.”

No First Lady in recent memory has connected with children, and girls (and their moms) in particular, on a level that Mrs. Obama has. Whether it’s leading by example through empowering kids to make better decisions at meal time — something that often eludes urban, lower-income families — to doing a remarkable and loving job of shielding her own daughters from the spotlight, Mrs. Obama shies away from rhetoric and gets real, really quickly.

The #62MillionGirls initiative, to which Mrs. Obama referred, is part of the newly launched Let Girls Learn campaign that aims to ensure access to education for girls — because educating girls is the key to ending global poverty, she explained.

The First Lady also urged patience in the high school years by acknowledging that it can be a “mess,” but persevering will mean the girls will not have to look back later in life with regret.

“You’ll have opportunity, and you’ll have control of your life to make choices. And you won’t have to listen to your parents, because you’ll have a job and you’ll pay your own bills. You want that freedom. Freedom comes later,” she said.

Her words resonated, as they so often do, due to a lack of hyperbole mixed with an abundance of empathy and frank acknowledgments of the real world.

Actress Charlize Theron also spoke at the event, telling the audience to stop believing so much of what has been drilled into them, and instead, do what they know they need to do to get ahead.

“We have been told to live by a certain mold, women, especially women, and it’s time to break it,” Theron said. “It is up to us to do that. Stop waiting for men to do that.”


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