Michelle Obama reminds young Montrealers of importance of education

Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 at Montreal's Palais des congrès Monday night, former American first lady Michelle Obama urged young people, and especially young women, to make education a priority.

Obama tells sold-out crowd of 10,000 people that in order to make a change, 'education is the foundation'

About 10,000 people purchased tickets to hear Michelle Obama speak on Monday, Feb. 5, in Montreal. (Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 at Montreal's Palais des congrès Monday night, former American first lady Michelle Obama urged young people, and especially young women, to make education a priority. 

"Education is the foundation for any and every thing I've been able to accomplish in my life," Obama said at Montreal's Palais des congrès. "It's important for kids to understand that dropping out and giving up is not an option."

During her time in the White House, Michelle Obama worked on initiatives to prevent childhood obesity and inspire young people — especially teenage girls — set lofty educational goals.
Speaking less than a year after her husband, former president Barack Obama, addressed a Montreal audience of 8,000 people, Michelle Obama told the crowd that in order to make change, education, passion and a willingness to compromise are your best tools — along with hard work.
"Miracles don't happen," Obama said. "You have to put effort in." 
About 10,000 people filled the Palais des congrès Monday evening to see Michelle Obama. (Laura Marchand/CBC)

Introducing Obama was another strong advocate for women's empowerment: Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She said that as a society we are at "so many turning points," referencing the #MeToo movement. 

The discussion was moderated by Sévrine Labelle, the president of women's entrepreneurial firm Femmessor.

Also present were Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Minister of the Economy, Science and Innovation Dominique Anglade and the Prime Minister's mother and mental health advocate Margaret Trudeau.

'The solution starts with education'

A strong advocate for gender equality, Obama called on men to use their power to speak up and work to fight inequality. 

"There are limited seats at any table," she said. "Men have to ask themselves, are they willing to make more seats at the table, or are they will to give up some seats?" 

The crowd burst into applause when Obama called on everyone to start the conversation required to fight the status quo and work toward equality. 

This starts with our children, she said

As a black woman in Harvard Law School and other elite institutions, Obama said many people made assumptions on what she could or could not do. Again, education and self-reflection were Obama's solution. 

"We have to teach our children a different set of values. We have to look inward." 

She added that fostering confidence in girls from a young age is crucial to helping them succeed.

No campaign for Michelle 

Though many have called on Obama to run for president, the former first lady confirmed she would not be running for office in 2020. 

"Politics is not my future," she said. "My passion is social change." 

Still, she said she continues to work for all the initiatives she started during her time at the White House.

Obama added that she is working on a memoir that will delve deeper into the issue of education, explore her roots and values which she formed growing up on the south side of Chicago and discuss what life was like in the White House.

'Inspiring, charismatic,' fans say

Montrealers who came out to see Obama speak said it was a night to remember.

"I really wanted to come because she is so inspiring. As a black woman, she has done so many things," said Ariane Joazard-Belizaire, a political science student who is completing a master's degree in international law.

"I think she might be one of the most charismatic people, maybe of all time. Her and her husband are just incredible people to hear speak," said Xavier Desrosiers.

Montrealer Sarah Bouchard saw Barack Obama speak last year, so she knew she couldn't miss Monday night's event with Michelle Obama.

"It's kind of interesting to see the couple and to see how both of them are inspiring everybody."  


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