First Lady Michelle Obama served as host at a Broadway concert for the spouses of U.N. leaders as part of her Let Girls Learn initiative that promotes the education of girls in countries whose cultural traditions prevent their access to higher learning.
The event, held at the Bernard Jacobs Theater in New York City on Monday, was emceed by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert and, according to the White House, coordinated with the United Nations General Assembly Spousal Program.
“Stephen always makes us laugh, but he also makes us think and care about important issues like girls’ education,” Mrs. Obama said. “And I’m so grateful for everything he has done.”
As the Associated Press reports, Broadway stars performed tunes from shows that feature female characters, such as The Color Purple, Waitress, Wicked, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
The First Lady said the issue of girls’ education “has always been personal”:
“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.”
Mrs. Obama said that while she has no authority to pass laws or to issue executive orders, “in just a year and a half, through Let Girls Learn, we’ve established partnerships with nearly 80 companies and organizations that are committing money, resources and expertise” to her initiative.
The First Lady added that the 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 added.
Mrs. Obama urged the spouses of world leaders to use their power “to help girls worldwide get the education they deserve.”
“Reach out to your country’s NGOs and corporations,” she said. “Lobby your spouses. Talk directly to your citizens, especially your young people. More than 62 million girls around the world are counting on us to be their voice.”