First Lady Michelle Obama had high praise for her predecessor, former First Lady Laura Bush Wednesday at a U.S.-Africa Summit forum hosted by the State Department, Bush Institute, and Office of the First Lady.
“It is now my pleasure to begin a conversation with a first lady who has long been an inspiration for me,” Obama said. “Laura Bush set a high bar for me during her time in the White House and she has continued to do outstanding work around the world since she and her husband left Washington.”
“I consider her not just a role model but also a friend,” Obama added about the former first lady.
Bush and Obama participated in a dialogue moderated by National Public Radio’s Cokie Roberts about the importance of education, public-private partnerships, valuing girls and leadership by countries’ first ladies.
Obama and Bush spoke about some of their own initiatives, including Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.
When asked about the “blow back” Obama has faced for the effort, Obama said that criticism is a part of leadership.
“That’s really the role of leadership. It’s not about amassing power, its taking some of those hits and continuing to do the work even when it is painful and sometimes unappreciated but that is why it is important for all of us to have a vision as first spouses,” Obama said. “Because if you have your vision and you know what you’re passionate about and you know what direction you’re going in, then all the arrow and the spears and the criticisms they just bounce off of you because you keep doing the work everyday,” she said.
Obama noted that the criticism, can however, “pinch”
Obama and Bush also spoke about the importance of first lady’s speaking out on issues they believe they can help their countries, Obama highlighted that first ladies can inspire girls and joked that women are also “smarter than men.”
“We can’t waste the spotlight, it is temporary and life is short and change is needed and women are smarter than men,” she said to laughter and claps.
“And the men can’t complain because you’re outnumbered today,” she added.
Roberts concluded the conversation by thanking the pair for their work and participation, adding “you’ve set such a good example for the men.”