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Michelle Obama: Equality Talks

Michelle Obama at the Equality Talks

When Michelle Obama spoke in Toronto on the advancement of women and girls at an event hosted by Plan Canada and The Economic Club last term, I was there. The talk truly epitomized its topic: For every ticket sold, a ticket was given to a female or a student of any gender aged 14-24. It was thanks to this program that I had the opportunity to see Michelle Obama speak. While I didn’t get to meet her personally, being in the same room as the former first lady, as well as leaders like Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and MPP Michael Coteau, was a truly remarkable experience. 

Cassie and her friend at the Equality TalksAs a female student about to graduate and nursing my own social impact venture, there were a few core takeaways that spoke to my journey.

Michelle Obama addressed the under-representation of women in STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through an educational lens. She referenced her own childhood, where she moved away from the sciences towards law because the learning system did not appeal to her needs as a female. Obama urged viewers to be their own education advocate and to demand the help you need when things don’t make sense.  

Michelle Obama left viewers with a question to invoke change in education systems:

“How do we make it so all children are learning equally in education systems that really match their needs?"

Michelle Obama closed the chat speaking about diversity, asking the leaders in the room to look around their teams for diverse people and perspectives. Being passionate and focused on diversity issues, it was one of Obama’s last thoughts on this subject that stuck with me on the drive back to Waterloo. In reference to young women who feel held back by people or situations, Obama said:

 “Don’t make yourself be small because someone else doesn’t know how to be big.”

I know that I, and the 3,000 attendees, undoubtedly left the talk feeling empowered and unapologetically big

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