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.