Editor’s note: The following is the text of an address given Saturday by the first lady Michelle Obama. The address is usually given by the president and this was the first in which it was delivered by the first lady to mark Mother’s Day.
I want to take a moment to honor all the mothers out there and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.
I also want to speak to you about an issue of great significance to me as a first lady and, more importantly, as the mother of two young daughters.
Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.
This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.
And I want you to know that [President] Barack [Obama] has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home.
In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.
Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way.
But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.
The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter.
Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats – but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams. They were so determined to move to the next level of their education, so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud.
And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident; it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.
It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.
Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community and, as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.
But, fortunately, Malala survived and, when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.
As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action because, right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school.
Yet we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives and have healthier families. And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country’s entire economy.
So education is truly a girl’s best chance for a bright future, not just for herself but [also] for her family and her nation.
And that’s true right here in the U.S. as well. So I hope the story of these Nigerian girls will serve as an inspiration for every girl – and boy – in this country.
I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted – any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out – I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education.
These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis but [also] for the long haul.
We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential.
So, today, let us all pray for their safe return. Let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.