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“I’m surprised by how much has changed, but by how much has not changed,” said Obama about the #MeToo movement. “I think that’s where the fire is coming from. Enough is enough. The world is a sadly dangerous place for women and girls and we see that again and again.”
“I think young women are tired of it. They’re tired of being undervalued. They’re tired of being disregarded. They’re tired of their voices not being invested in and heard,” she continued. “It’s not just around the world. That’s happening right here in this country and if we’re gonna change that, we have to give them the tools and the skills through education to be able to lift those voices up.”
Co-host Hoda Kotb mentioned that some people believe the movement has excluded men and has recently provoked backlash. “That’s what happens with change. Change is not a direct, smooth path,” Obama responded.
“There’s gonna be bumps and resistance. There’s been a status quo in terms of the way women have been treated, what their expectations have been in this society. And that is changing and there’s gonna be a little upheaval,” she said. “There’s gonna be a little discomfort, but I think it’s up to the women out there to say sorry. Sorry that you feel uncomfortable, but I’m now paving the way for the next generation.”
“We as mothers, we have to think about the path that we want to pave for our girls and if we don’t start setting the tone now, they’re gonna walk into a world where they’re still dealing with those issues in the workplace and at homes and at schools,” she continued.
Obama added that she doesn’t want Kotb and co-host Savannah Guthrie’s daughters to have the same experiences as past generations. “Your girls are likely to be the beneficiary of this work, this voice, these opportunities,” she said.
She then explained why she has chosen to remain active in politics now that she is no longer the first lady. “I chose to engage because there’s no choice,” she said. “I talked to some of the girls yesterday about [it]. They asked me a question about how do you stay resilient in the face of difficulty. And the thing that I wanted to remind them, that I have to remind myself in times when I get down, is that change is hard and it takes time and we are planting seeds every day.”
“I made a commitment to girls around the world when I was in the White House that I would not walk away from this issue when I left, and this is my fulfillment of that promise through the Obama Foundation,” she said.
Guthrie then pointed out that while she has been asked multiple times if she would consider running for public office, she hasn’t been asked if there are any reasons why she would choose not to run.
“As a woman, you understand where your voice works best. Where you want to operate, what space you want to be in. I’ve never wanted to be a politician,” she said. “Nothing has changed in me to make me want to run for elected office. I want to serve. I want to do work. I want to be out there, but there are so many ways to make an impact. Politics is just not my thing.”
Obama also addressed the moment at Sen. John McCain’s funeral when former President George W. Bush handed her a cough drop. “I didn’t realize at the time that anyone noticed what we were doing,” she said of the exchange, which was caught on tape. “President Bush and I, we are forever seatmates because of protocol. That’s how we sit at all the official functions, so he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather, so we’re together all the time.”
“I love him to death. He’s a wonderful man and he’s a funny man. And it was a simple gesture,” she said. “He was getting a cough drop from Laura and I looked over and I said, ‘Hand me a cough drop.'”
She added that the cough drops were old. “They were in the little White House box, the Altoids. And I was like, ‘How long have you had these?'” she said. “And he said, ‘A long time. We’ve got a lot of these.'”
Guthrie said that the interaction showcased a bipartisan moment. “That’s why it matters so much, because that’s what people are hungry for,” said Obama. “Party doesn’t separate us. Color, gender. Those kinds of things don’t separate us. It’s the messages that we send and if we’re the adults and the leaders in the room and we’re not showing that level of decency, we cannot expect our children to do the same.”
The former first lady also discussed her latest initiative, Global Girls Alliance, which is focused on girls’ education.
“The stats show that when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country, it makes no sense that the strengths of our families, that girls and women are not getting educated, that they’re not in school, so it absolutely make sense for us,” she said about why she chose the specific initiative. “If we care about climate change, if we care about poverty, if we care about maternal child health, then we have to care about education.”
After explaining that 98 million adolescent girls aren’t currently in school, she said, “We want to build a role in building an alliance of young people that are out there doing the work on the ground and we want to give them the opportunity to network with one another, because working on these issues out in the world can be lonely.”
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