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After having a lovely tea with Mrs. Sall, the First Lady of Senegal, we headed to the Martin Luther King (MLK) school, an all-girls middle school in Dakar, which is Senegal’s capital city. I had a chance to speak to about 150 members of the ninth grade class and their teachers. The girls put on a wonderful dance performance and delivered presentations they had prepared – in excellent English (they normally speak French). One of them even performed Etta James' "At Last," and she absolutely blew me away – let me tell you, that young woman could sing. 

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks in Senegal

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks as she and First Lady Marème Sall visit Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school, in Dakar, Senegal.

June 27, 2013.

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The First Lady talks with students

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students in their classroom during a visit to Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school, in Dakar, Senegal.

June 27, 2013.

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The more time I spent with these extraordinary young women – girls living halfway across the world from where I was born in raised – the more I saw how similar their stories are to my own. Like my own parents, many of these girls’ parents never had the chance to get the kind of education they hoped for. And like the family I grew up in, many of their families don’t have much money. 

But no matter what challenges these girls are facing in their lives, they come to school every day eager to learn, and they spend hours each night studying and doing their homework. They also work hard to develop themselves as leaders, running their own student government and meeting with distinguished women leaders, including a number of CEOs and high-ranking government officials. And their hard work is paying off – students from MLK perform very well on their exams, and girls who graduate from this school go on to become accomplished businesswomen, scientists, artists, athletes and more. 

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