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Michelle, Melinda & Amal: Stronger Together

Learn English with Michelle Obama, Melinda French Gates, and Amal Clooney. Join them as they unite for a special event in New York City in support of the Girls Opportunity Alliance’s Get Her There campaign and girls’ education worldwide. In this panel discussion moderated by CNN’s Sara Sidner, these influential women announce a collaboration between their respective organizations to advance gender equality and end child marriage. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from these trailblazers as they work to help girls overcome barriers and reach their full potential.

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Michelle Obama | Quote

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“Empower yourselves with a good education.” Michelle Obama

Michelle, Melinda & Amal | FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Michelle Obama: You are good enough. You are valued. You are worthy. Your story matters. Your voice matters. You will do the great things that you know you can do.

Sara Sidner: So many women struggle with self-doubt. Do you? And if you do, how do you push past it?

Michelle Obama: I talk about this all the time, especially with the young girls I meet, because they look at people like us in these positions and they think, well, you must have been born into that place, which is the one of the reasons why when I meet with young girls, I don’t care where in the world it is. I don’t want them to know Michelle Obama, the former first lady. I want them to know Michelle Obama, that girl from the south side of Chicago. I want to break down that that wall of impossibility to let them know that I am them and they are me. And yes, every other moment I feel self-doubt, because when you… and society intentionally does that to women and girls, it starts at a very early age.

We are we question our value, our worth. We question how we look, how we talk, where we’re from. There are people with power who want us to stay small. They want us to stay doubtful. And so our cultures reinforce that. So the one thing I want young girls to understand is that those feelings are real. They are not crazy. They are they are they are indoctrinated in us all. And we carry them around with us our entire lives. And I don’t care how far you go, whether you go to the White House, you are constantly batting away those negative messages of being not enough. And yes, I deal with that, too.

And I don’t want young women, young girls to get ahead of themselves to think that they have to fix it all now. In order to break these cycles of negativity, you got to get up every day and do the work right before you. That means getting your education when the opportunity presents itself and then focusing on that, doing the work, doing your homework, getting to the next stage in life. Because if you take those small steps over time, you build up a lifetime of another story for yourself. No one can do that for you. You have to look over your life.

And we as women sometimes feel like we have to have done everything right before we can take credit for the things that we have done. But there is power in what we do every day. And I have to remind myself of that every single moment. But now that I’m older, I can now look back and say, yeah, I am worthy. I have value. But it’s not because I’m sitting here. I had that value when I was three, when I was five, when I was seven, when I was twelve. And for the young girls out there, you have it now. You just have to take the time to realize it and be patient with yourself as you do it, because the process takes a lifetime.

Sara Sidner: Takes a lifetime. I am tripping right now that you just said that you deal with self-doubt all the time. Like somehow that didn’t seem to me.

Michelle Obama: Right in the back. Right back there.

Sara Sidner: Me too.

Michelle Obama: Right back there. I was like, don’t trip. Don’t fall. The same things. Amal and I were like, what are you wearing? Is this color right? Will this be stupid?

Amal Clooney: I’m really honored to be doing this work with you. And also, what are you wearing?

Sara Sidner: So what do you do, Amal, when self-doubt attacks you? Because that’s what it feels like, right? It kind of feels like an attack.

Amal Clooney: I don’t know. I mean, I think I get supercharged by the people I love and just having an amazing family and friendships. And now two kids who are kind of looking up at you, expecting you to have all the answers. And it’s put a fine point on why we’re doing all of this. And I think it’s, I imagine them kind of, they’re only five, so they’re not quite on top of current affairs yet.

Sara Sidner: I actually don’t believe that. I bet you they know more than most people.

Amal Clooney: Well, actually, my son drew a picture the other day of a prison, and he was like, Putin should be in here. And I was like, oh my goodness.

Melinda Gates: Maybe I went a little too far on that one.

Amal Clooney: I don’t know what he overheard, but I am working on Ukraine still. But I do think about in a few years when, maybe five or more, when they sort of start to learn about some of these issues that we’re talking about and what’s happening in the world. And when they ask us, what did you do about this? What did you say about that? What will my answer be? And I hope it will be a good one.

Melinda Gates: I think it’s important to tell all girls that you can be whatever you want to be. You can be a mom and a working mom, or a working woman and not a mom, or a mom and stay home. Like, all of these choices are okay. And guess what? You can also get it wrong with your kids. So, same thing, my daughter was five, my oldest, and she told her doll to lay down because it had HIV/AIDS and she needed to take care of it. And I thought, oh my God, I’ve gone way too far on my work.

Amal Clooney: No prison drawings?

Melinda Gates: No.

Sara Sidner: I have one question that I’d like you all to answer because I thought this was a brilliant idea. So, the Girls’ Opportunity Alliance asked girls to write to their 25-year-old self. And since we are so young, I’m going to ask you to reverse that. What would you, and I’ll start here with you, Melinda, what would you tell your 25-year-old self now that you’ve lived a life?

Melinda Gates: I would say life is even more beautiful ahead than you realize. And I would say to my 25-year-old self, you knew in high school who you were. And you let go of some of that for lots of reasons. People, situations, college, people around you. You knew who you were. And once you learn to re-be the girl you were in high school, is when you grew into the full woman that you could be.

Sara Sidner: Boom. Mrs Obama?

Michelle Obama: That part! Just simply put, I would tell myself, you are good enough. You are valued. You are worthy. Your story matters. Your voice matters. You will do the great things that you know you can do. There was something that struck a chord. It’s like we all knew who we were when we were little. We knew our power then. It was just second guessed. So I would tell myself, follow that instinct, pay attention to that flame in you because it is real. And keep it fueled. And don’t let anybody try to blow it out because you’re going to need it.

Sara Sidner: Amal?

Amal Clooney: What they said.

Sara Sidner: I know. It’s hard being last on this one.

Amal Clooney: You know, I would say… define failure as not trying. Because actually going for things and falling flat on your face is fine. It’s a learning experience. It makes you stronger. Go for it, get there, and get others there.

Sara Sidner: Because you do work all around the world, where in the world are you most concerned about what is happening to girls and women right now?

Amal Clooney: Everywhere. It’s unfortunately, I mean, you know, at the moment I’m working on with our foundation gathering evidence of crimes being committed against women and girls, amongst others, in Ukraine. At our foundation we call what we do waging justice. Because we cannot assume that justice is just going to happen. You have to actually fight for it. You have to make it happen. You can’t even assume that things are going to move in the right direction. Set against that, I do also see through my work the bravest people in the world being women and young girls who sometimes have suffered the worst crimes, you know, genocide and sexual enslavement. And they are the ones fighting back, fighting for justice.

And I have to say, you know, today watching on our screens what’s happening in Iran with girls who’ve suffered, you know, the worst brutality, but a protest movement and, you know, being led by girls in school uniform who are facing off against a regime that is using force to torture and kill. And they’re still determined because if they’re not the ones on the front lines, they can’t rely on others for change. And I think that’s incredible. And I think it also gives us perspective. If girls like that can risk everything to, you know, just be free to show their hair and have just basic freedoms, then we can all do more, you know, from where we’re sitting. And so I find that really inspiring.

Michelle, Melinda, & Amal