Students from Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets joined fellow students from Islington to welcome Michelle Obama when she returned to London this week.
Former First Lady Obama returned to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, in Islington which she first visited in 2009, as part of her one-day U.K tour promoting her new memoir, Becoming, to speak to more than 200 students from both schools. She was cheered wildly as she came on stage.
Obama first visited Mulberry School in 2015 as part of her education initiative, Let Girls Learn; later in 2015, she welcomed 20 students from Mulberry School to the White House.
Obama spoke to the young women about the importance of education, and how they inspired her to focus on education in the United States and abroad. She said: “As I said then, you remind me of me, and all the fears and all the challenges that you face.”
Three girls who were at EGA for Obama’s first visit joined her on stage. They had all gone on to university, two studying chemistry and one studying law.
One of EGA girls, Winnie Mac, 22, spoke about how Mrs. Obama’s visit in 2009 affected her. Mac said: “Two things things that [Obama] said was how important it was to always reach back and help others and also how being smart was the coolest thing in the world, and at that time it was really important because I was about to do my exams.”
Obama also spoke about how she had to overcome her guidance counselor’s doubts when she was applying to Princeton. She said: “Whatever she saw in me told her that my dreams were too high, and that cut me.”
In Becoming, Obama wrote of her first visit to EGA in 2009, when the student body was made up of 900 refugee students who spoke 55 languages. She knew that they would face the same challenges she did. She wrote that she “knew they’d have to push back against all the stereotypes that would get put on them, all the ways they’d be defined before they’d had a chance to define themselves. They’d need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor, female and of colour.”