Michelle Obama enjoyed an emotional return to a north London secondary school she credits with inspiring her to get involved in educational reform.
The former First Lady said she was ‘moved, touched and inspired’ by her meetings with hundreds of youngsters at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington today.
Mrs Obama, 54, was visiting the school, which has many students from deprived homes, as part of a publicity tour for her bestselling memoir titled Becoming.
Michelle Obama spoke of her pride as she met schoolgirls in north London at the same secondary school she first visited in 2009
The former First Lady said she was ‘moved, touched and inspired’ by her meetings with hundreds of youngsters at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington
Mrs Obama was visiting the school as part of a publicity tour for her bestselling memoir titled Becoming
The former First Lady encouraged the pupils to practise supporting each other in her speech
In the book, she detailed the profound impact her visit to the comprehensive secondary school had on her nine years ago, at a time when it had 900 refugee pupils, with 55 languages spoken between them.
Speaking today, she said: ‘Meeting the girls here and the girls at Mulberry reminded me how much courage and talent and hope there is.’
She added: ‘On a personal level I was moved and touched and inspired as I always am by the young people I meet around the world.
‘It gives me a level of focus and determination when I get to see you all up close.
Michelle Obama spoke at the event alongside executive headteacher Jo Dibb (left) and Nusrath Hassan (right)
She greeted students at the all-girls secondary school as she made her way to and from the stage
Her memoir Becoming is now the best selling book in the US of 2018 according to figures released by Penguin Random House
Speaking today, she said: ‘Meeting the girls here and the girls at Mulberry reminded me how much courage and talent and hope there is’
‘And as I said then, you remind me of me and all the fears and all the challenges that you face.
‘You give me a sense of comfort as being First Lady wasn’t the easiest job in the world but I got strength from you so thank you all for that, thanks for giving me that.’
Mrs Obama also encouraged the pupils to practise supporting each other.
She told them: ‘We as women don’t have the luxury of tearing each other down, there are enough barriers out there.
Mrs Obama mingles with young girls from the school, which has students from many different backgrounds and nationalities
Becoming sold more than two million copies in North America within the first 15 days of release
Mrs Obama said Sunday she was canceling book tour visits to Paris and Berlin to attend the funeral of former president George H.W. Bush, who died Friday aged 94
Michelle Obama speaks to Ms Dibb (left) and Ms Hassan (right) during the Penguin Talks event
‘There are enough people out there ready to tear us down, our job is to lift each other up so we have to start practising now.
‘There is no room for mean girls and cliques and social complications that naturally come at your age. I want you to be mindful of that.’
She added: ‘That is one thing we can do better as women, we can take better care of each other.’
The relationship between Obama and the school was further heightened when a return visit in 2011 saw her invite pupils to hear her speak at Oxford University.
The former First Lady, flanked by security guards, is presented a bouquet of flowers from one pupil
Mrs Obama was joined by former pupils Winnie Mac and Letrishka Anthony from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School and Nusrath Hassan, a former pupil of Mulberry School
Mrs Obama spoke at length about her relationship with her husband and former President Barack Obama
In her memoir, she detailed the profound impact her visit to the comprehensive secondary school had on her nine years ago
The following year, Mrs Obama invited a dozen of the schoolgirls to visit her at the White House in Washington.
Students spoke of the huge confidence boost the encounter gave them as Mrs Obama encouraged the girls to follow their dreams and to ‘stay hopeful and keep working, despite their lack of privilege’.
Today, Mrs Obama spoke about ways diversity in the top universities can be improved, saying: ‘Part of what we have to do is expose them to the opportunities. All kids can only dream things that are known to them.
The former First Lady smiled and clapped her hands as she was welcomed onto a stage at the school
Motivational: Mrs Obama invited them to spend a day with her when she spoke at Oxford University in 2011
‘If they don’t see elite colleges, if they don’t know they exist, they don’t know what to dream of.’
Referring to the trip she took to Oxford University with 37 EGA pupils in 2011, she said: ‘This is why our visit to Oxford was so important.
‘Colleges and universities have to start doing the work reaching out to kids very young… we have to start working on that pipeline much earlier.
‘We can’t wait until we have two years out from college. We need to start talking to them early – that includes not just conversations but visits, what is it like in a dormitory, to sit in a lecture?’
The First Lady, a graduate of Harvard Law School, pictured hugging students at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College in 2009 is hoping to inspire another group of students with a visit to the Mulberry School in east London
A dozen schoolgirls visited the White House in Washington after Mrs Obama invited them in 2012. One of them, Gamze Kaplin, pictured second row, far right, has described her time with the First Lady as a massive confidence booster