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(NEW YORK) — Former first lady Michelle Obama is encouraging young girls to reflect on their own personal stories as they work on “becoming” their best selves.
Obama is partnering with the Girl Scouts of the USA on the “Becoming Me” program that is based on the Young Reader edition of her best-selling memoir, Becoming.
The “Becoming Me” program series is designed to let young female scouts “explore your story and the power of your voice,” according to Girl Scouts.
To kick off the program, which launched Thursday, Obama, a mother of two daughters, talked for nearly one hour with five Girl Scouts of all ages from across the country.
When asked about finding the courage needed to achieve big things, Obama, who hosted a Girl Scout camp out on the White House lawn as first lady, told the girls, “Courage takes practice. As you learn in the Girl Scouts, courage is a part of leadership, and leadership is a thing that you practice over time and you practice in stages.”
“You guys are learning good leadership skills in the stages that you’re going through with the Girl Scouts,” she said. “Courage, like any leadership trait, requires some practice, and it’s OK that at your age you still find things that are intimidating for you or that you’re nervous about or that you’re hesitant because you’ve just been on this earth such a small amount of time.”
Isabel Montalvo, 16, a high school junior from Puerto Rico, asked Obama about her now-famous catchphrase, “When they go low, we go high,” which she said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention during Hillary Clinton’s run for president.
Obama told the girls it’s not always easy to go high, but explained the importance of doing so, especially in today’s world of social media.
“Going high means looking at the bigger picture. When you go low, oftentimes you’re just reacting to your base, gut reaction. It’s like the first thing that comes out of your mouth. Oftentimes, that’s No. 1, not how you really feel, and No. 2, it’s not going to solve anything or make anything better,” she said. “You need time to think through how you feel and then what you’re going to say that’s going to actually add value and fix the problem.”
“This is particularly true in a social media climate where everybody has a platform, everybody’s got a Twitter account. Everybody has Instagram. Everybody thinks that every thought in their head should be shared and shared right away. Well, I’m here to tell you that often doesn’t work out well,” Obama added. “I want to encourage you all, because you all are leaders and you will be leaders, to know that your voice has power, and with that power comes great responsibility to use it well. You never want to just say the first thing that comes to mind. You want to think about it.”
The former first lady released her Young Reader edition of Becoming in March. Adapted for kids ages 10 and older, the book features a special introduction by Obama and three photo inserts, according to Penguin Random House, the book’s publisher.
Obama told Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts in March that she finds such joy in working with young people because they “are our hope.”
“They are not jaded yet. They are not beaten down by what they’re supposed to be. They are still wide open,” she said. “That’s the point of Becoming. If you are lucky, you will never become something and that’s the end. If you are lucky, you will constantly grow and evolve until the day you cannot breathe anymore, you know? We are all learning and becoming something better and greater.”
Obama writes in Becoming about her journey from growing up on the South Side of Chicago to becoming a lawyer, a wife, a mom and the first lady of the United States.
She relayed a story from her memoir to give the Girl Scouts the confidence to know they can sit at any table in the world.
“I, Michelle Obama, at this stage in my life, have been at every, major important table that is important to be in,” she said. “I have been at law firms. I have been working at the state level with mayors, with governors. I’ve worked with heads of nonprofits. I’ve worked in c-suites. I’ve gone to G summits. I’ve sat at State Dinners. I’ve been to palaces.”
“I’ve been to every table you can imagine, and let me tell you, you are smart enough to be there,” Obama said.
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