I subscribe to Lena Dunham and her friend Jenni Konner’s newsletter: The Lenny Letter. Each week is a new email with compelling interviews with and profiles of super rad feminist ladies, and personal essays/call to arms. Today’s Lenny Letter was written by one of my number 1 lady crushes, FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and I’ve got to say, it got me all kinds of fired up. This essay is an emotional clarion call to support girls education. She introduces the new #62MillionGirls social media campaign, and shares why she supports the #LetGirlsLearn initiative.
Just imagine for a moment what it’s like to be in their shoes. Imagine being a bright, curious young girl with all kinds of ideas about what you want to be when you grow up. And then one day, someone taps you on the shoulder and says, “Sorry, not you. You’re a girl. Your dreams stop here. You have to drop out of school, marry a man 20 years older than you whom you’ve never met, and start having babies of your own.”
Think about who — and what — you would be today if your formal education had ended after middle school and you knew only what you’d learned through eighth grade.
It’s inconceivable, right? We wouldn’t dream of accepting this fate for ourselves — or for our friends, sisters, or daughters. So why would we accept it for any girl on this planet — especially when we’ve got piles of research telling us that girls who go to school marry later, have healthier families, and earn higher salaries?
I’m infinitely grateful for my education. For Ms. Cavazos, who saw me hiding my tears during free read in 7th grade, and gave me the bathroom pass so I could ugly cry when Walter Blythe died in WWI. She taught me that tears from books are always okay. For Ms. McDonald, who encouraged us to forgo ‘being nice’ in our writing and instead be compelling and funny and truthful, allowing me to follow suit in my own conversations. For Mr. Risinger, who modeled respect and civil dialogues, even if you had a vastly different political opinion.
For Bryn Mawr. Oh my goodness, for Bryn Mawr. A home of take no shit, love one another, bad ass, formidable women. An intellectual home where my assumptions were challenged, my privilege called out, and my instincts were honed. A home where self government was encouraged and fostered. They treated us like adults. Adults who had the power to decide what their daily lives would look like, but who also had the responsibility to ensure that their choices didn’t infringe on others. Take care of yourself, take care of each other. We trust you. You can do it. You can own your life and make a difference in the world.
I cried hot fast tears as I read Michelle’s letter in the company bathroom (still my favorite spot for that ugly cry), thinking of all the girls (62 million) who don’t have the opportunities to learn what I’ve learned. And my heart said no more. I will not stand by and let this happen. I will take these gut-wrenching tears and galvanize.
So, please join me on Saturday April 16th at 6pm for a fundraising screening of the film ‘Girl Rising‘ followed by a discussion. This screening will be at my home, and nibbles and drinks will be provided. All I ask is that you give. All money raised will be donated to the Peace Corp Let Girls Learn Fund, the recipient that Michelle Obama is specifically asking us to support.
From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Viewers get to know nine unforgettable girls living in the developing world: ordinary girls who confront tremendous challenges and overcome nearly impossible odds to pursue their dreams. Prize-winning authors put the girls’ remarkable stories into words, and renowned actors give them voice.
Stand up to this injustice and help me work to keep girls in schools. I’ll finish with the First Lady’s own final words:
I want to end this letter with the story of just one of these girls — a young woman I met in Cambodia. She wakes up at four every morning to cook for her family, water their crops, and tend to their cows. Then she gets on her bicycle and pedals for an hour to get to school, where she studies as hard as she can to fulfill her dream of becoming a math teacher.
She told me, “I have been through a lot of hardships. I know that I need to overcome them. I’ve never thought that they are the barrier to stop me. I’ve never thought of giving up … I never lose hope in myself.”
Against the most heartbreaking odds, these girls never lose hope in themselves. The least we can do is give them a chance to go to school, fulfill that hope, and become who and what they are meant to be.