Meeting Michelle Obama – Our day at the White House
The Mulberry School students were reminded to take some slow deep breaths before Michelle Obama arrived. I was grateful for the advice myself, to be honest.
The First Lady of the United States, or FLOTUS as she is known, arrived and spent an hour with us in an informal, closed session. What an amazing experience. All 20 students spoke to her and asked great questions like ‘What does freedom mean to you?’ It felt like a real conversation, and this was down to Michelle Obama’s supreme skill. The topics of conversation included civil rights, the business case for diversity, immigration, and why Let Girls Learn matters so much.
The First Lady was genuinely impressed by the students and the girls were simply bowled over by her and the experience. As was I.
I did find myself wishing – just for a moment – that my Mum and Dad had lived to know I’d been at the White House with Michelle Obama. My Dad was a teacher and worked his socks off fighting to ensure disabled students got a decent education in Liverpool, and with disadvantaged students in Toxteth. My Mum ran the parish playgroup, worked as a doctors’ receptionist, and ran a household of ten people. 30 years ago I worked as a teacher before setting up the EW Group (then Equality Works), so being the Chair of Governors of Mulberry School feels like a great fit to me.
Watching the news last night after our visit, I see that some (including possible presidential candidates) are suggesting again that all Syrian refugees should be barred from the US. We should remember that the US, the UK and many other developed countries were built by immigrants. I loved the snippet of news yesterday that Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian refugee.
The day ended with a slap-up dinner on us with staff and students – the least we could do. The girls had had to fight hard for their place to be here, and had proved themselves to be amazing ambassadors for Mulberry School for Girls.
The girls were exhausted, and elated. A once in a lifetime experience.
Jane Farrell is the co-founder and Chief Executive of EW Group. She is a specialist in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, organisational change and cultural intelligence. Jane has vast experience in diversity consulting and training, specialising in working with senior management teams to improve individual, team and organisational performance. Jane has delivered large-scale diversity programmes for our high-profile client base, including London Underground which at the time was the UK’s largest diversity management programme of its kind. Sign up to EW Group’s fortnightly e-newsletter for industry updates, case studies, exclusive event invites and more!