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Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron, and Sophia Bush Want Your Help Encouraging Girls' Education

Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron, and Sophia Bush Want Your Help Encouraging Girls' Education

On Tuesday, Levo (and MAKERS) got to be a part of an extraordinary event hosted by Glamour in partnership with the White House's Let Girls Learn initiative.

Called "The Power of an Educated Girl," this incredible event featured philanthropist Charlize Theron, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Girl ambassador from Plan International Nurfahada, and First Lady Michelle Obama. As the new board member of Glamour's The Girl Project (and a Levo 100 member!), Sophia Bush served as emcee and welcomed the esteemed guests at New York City's Apollo Theater, which included 1,000 school girls from The Girl Scouts and Girl Rising. Bush made the message clear right from the beginning: "School doesn’t just give girls information, it empowers them."

The women, moderated by Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, stressed over and over that educating girls is the key to ending world problems, including poverty and AIDS. Obama, who launched the new global education initiative #62MillionGirls this weekend (that's the number of school-aged females in the world who are unable to receive education), told the girls in the audience that helping to improve education around the world starts with them.

"We want this to spur and inspire you to not take your education for granted. Because let me tell you, there are 62 million girls around the world who would give anything to be in your position." She continued, "If you care about those girls the first thing you have to do is care about your education."

She encouraged the girls to do this by tweeting and instagramming up a storm.

"I want you all to be tweeting and instagramming more than your shoes and food. My kids do the same thing. Who cares what you're eating? I don't care. But we all should care about this." To spread the word about the initiative, everyone was asked to share a selfie of themselves and caption it with "What I learned in school BLANK" with the #62MillionGirls hashtag. Check out Mindy Kaling's.

 

"I was all smiles because I got to go to school and be myself. #62MillionGirls don't have that chance. Let's end that." - @MindyKaling

A photo posted by First Lady Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

Theron, founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and U.N. Messenger of Peace, focused on the fact that educating young girls can help improve the AIDS crisis happening not only in Africa, where it's the number one killer of women of reproductive age, but also globally.

"Education is actually saving lives. The Global Health campaign has said that education is a social vaccine against HIV. When girls stay in school they are less likely to become infected." The South African native noted, "In my country, girls are more than eight times more likely to become infected than boys, and what that tells me is that girls are being left behind."

Things got a bit more jovial, when Leive brought up for discussion about what she sees happening with a lot of school-aged girls — that doing well in school will makes them less attractive to boys. Theron said that absolutely enrages her and had one of the best lines of the day: "There is nothing sexier than a smart woman. Look in the mirror and say I am sexy, I am attractive, I am smart, I am intelligent, I am powerful, I have a voice, I look cute in these jeans! Yes, I don't have long hair. I have short hair. But I am still a girl and I am hot. We have to take ownership in all that stuff."

The First Lady reiterated this. "You don't want to be with a boy who's too stupid to know how smart you are. We have to raise our own bars. You cannot be successful when you are around people who drag you down." She continued, "There is no boy at this stage who is cute enough to stop you from getting your education. If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States." Resounding applause and cheers followed.

Most of us, if anything, are overeducated and have had so many opportunities afforded to us. It's appalling to think that young girls, like Malala and Nurfahada, have had to fight every step of the way for themselves and others just to be educated. Every woman on earth has the right to education, which is why campaigns and events like this are so important.

"For me, this is personal," the First Lady said. "When I think about the 62 million girls not in school, I think of myself and my daughters — all my girls, all our girls. I think about where I would be in my life if I didn't work hard in school and had the opportunity to go to college and law school. I wouldn't be here. It's imperative — and it's my passion and my mission — that every girl on the planet has the same opportunity that I have and my daughters have. And I want to make sure that all of you here in the United States are taking advantage of the opportunities that you have as well. Get that education because it will be the key to your future."


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More From Levo:
• 5 Books with Inspiring Female Protagonists
• Blake Lively Proves Walking Away and Quitting Aren’t the Same Thing
• How Janet Mock’s Biggest Professional Obstacle Actually Catapulted Her Career Success

Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for Glamour