This is part of the #WomenWhoLead campaign! During Women’s History Month LiveYourDream.org is featuring powerful women who are making a difference in their fields, inspiring the next generation, and changing the world for the better. These fierce feminist icons advocate for gender equality, challenge sexism, fight the patriarchy, and empower women everywhere to live their dreams.
A Lifelong Community Leader
Michelle Obama is best known for her role of First Lady, but this strong woman was making herstory long before her husband became the first African-American president of the United States. Born on the South Side of Chicago in 1964, Michelle’s family always emphasized the importance of education. She excelled in all her classes in grade school, going on to attend Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Chicago’s first magnet high school for gifted children. Following high school, Michelle attended Princeton University. She then went on to attend Harvard Law School, where she took part in demonstrations calling for the administration to enroll more minority students and hire more minority professors.
Michelle met her future husband in 1989, while working in the Chicago branch of the Sidley Austin law firm. In 1991, she moved on to public service. Starting off as the assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago’s City Hall and eventually moving on to become Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, Michelle spent the entirety of her career engaging young people and enhancing the community in which she grew up. When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, Michelle’s activism entered the national imagination.
An Advocate for Youth
As First Lady, Michelle launched a number of empowering initiatives. Her first, Let’s Move!, was launched in 2010 to address the childhood obesity epidemic plaguing America. Let’s Move! Attacked obesity from all angles, encouraging children to make healthy choices in their own lives and urging companies and schools to offer healthier options. The next year, Michelle and Second Lady Jill Biden launched Joining Forces to support service members, veterans, and their families. The initiative provides wellness, education, and employment opportunities to make sure that these brave Americans and their families are able to succeed.
In 2014, Michelle turned her focus to education, inspiring children to succeed academically just as her parents had inspired her. With the Reach Higher Initiative, Michelle encourages young people to continue their education past high school. More importantly, it gives them the tools to decide what path is best and how to pursue that path to the best of their abilities. The next year, Michelle and Barack launched Let Girls Learn. This initiative makes the importance of educating girls a worldwide rather than nationwide issue, and helps girls around the world go to school and stay in school by asking governments to do more to invest in their girls.
Her Influence on the Next Generation
Michelle Obama knows better than anyone that education is empowerment – particularly when it is applied to young girls – because she has seen its positive effects in her own life. Michelle’s parents inspired her to exceed in academics, and it is because of that instilled drive that she was able to succeed. Michelle’s entire life has been spent learning and teaching: understanding what is important to her and how to display that importance to others.
Everything Michelle Obama does is done with passion, and this passion is clear in every initiative she undertakes. From breaking stereotypes as the first African-American First Lady to breaking down barriers for girls’ education, from making a guest appearance at the Grammy Awards to making it to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List, there is truly nothing that Michelle Obama cannot do. However, she does not pride herself on her accomplishments or global impact. She considers her biggest accomplishment to be her two daughters, whom she teaches to pave the way for the next generation: just like their mother.
Leana Reich is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology. She loves to explore cities, particularly by way of coffee shops and museums, and doesn’t properly understand how lucky she is to have lived at the beach her entire life. She does understand how lucky she is to have such an amazing mom as a role model and appreciates her every day.