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Michelle Obama takes Let Girls Learn initiative to Broadway

First lady entertained and lobbied spouses of world leaders

If there is one thing the world has learned about first lady Michelle Obama, it’s that she is passionate about education.

On Monday, she took her message to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on Broadway, normally home to The Color Purple, as she hosted a concert with a few special guests. Obama addressed the spouses of chiefs of state and heads of government participating in the 71st U.N. General Assembly. She presented information regarding her Let Girls Learn initiative, a program launched last March to promote the education of girls in countries whose cultural traditions prevent their access to higher learning.

“More than 62 million girls around the world are counting on us to be their voice,” Obama said. “And I intend to continue speaking out on their behalf — not just for the rest of my time as first lady, but for the rest of my life. And I hope that you all will join me.”

Obama urged the spouses of world leaders to use their power “to help girls worldwide get the education they deserve.”

The 90-minute event included 2016 best actress Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo singing I’m Here from The Color Purple, Jennifer DiNoia and Carrie St. Louis singing For Good from Wicked, Charity Angel Dawson, Stephanie Torns and Jenna Ushkowitz singing A Soft Place to Land from Waitress, and a medley of songs by Carole King led by Chilina Kennedy.

“When people hear stories of girls who aren’t in school, they want to help. And as spouses of world leaders, so many of us here in this room have a platform that we can use to tell these stories and bring people together to take action for these girls. Because people will pick up the phone when we call,” Obama said.

According to the Associated Press, more than 50 spouses attended, along with public schoolchildren and Girl Scouts who packed the theater.

Three girls from Jordan, Pakistan and Malawi joined her on stage to discuss the need for education in their home countries. Obama was also joined by songwriter Sara Bareilles, Jordan’s Queen Rania, and Gertrude Mutharika, the first lady of Malawi.

“That is my wish for girls all over the world: That they get the chance and the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the world around them.

“See, back when I was a girl growing up in a working-class neighborhood, most of the folks I knew – including my parents – didn’t go to college. But with a lot of hard work – and a lot of financial aid – I had the chance to attend some of the finest universities in the country. And I can tell you that education was everything for me. It opened doors. It gave me the confidence to pursue my ambitions and make my voice heard in the world. For me, education was power,” Obama added.

The first lady said that the Let Girls Learn program is collaborating with Canada, Mexico, the Nordic countries, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

“The U.S. is investing over half a billion dollars more, and running Let Girls Learn programs in 40 countries,” she said.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.