Fw: FLOTUS pool report #2

From: Anderson, Nick [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2015 12:36 PM
To: Donohue, Kelsey
Cc: Rosholm, Joanna; Adler, Caroline; Vrazilek, Lauren
Subject: Re: FLOTUS pool report #2

After the speech, your pool was ushered into an exhibit hall to wait for FLOTUS to greet some students who were working with materials from a project called Ideas Box. We were told that in the interim FLOTUS had a private interview with a reporter from Cosmopolitan magazine's dot-com team, followed by a private interview of 10 minutes with the syndicated television show "Extra."

While waiting, we learned about the Ideas Box. The term describes "portable multimedia toolkits," contained in brightly colored (e.g. lime green) crates on wheels that can be opened and set up in less than 20 minutes to create a "cultural space" with a satellite Internet connection, 20 laptops and tablets, a library stocked with paper and electronic books and a "built-in cinema."  They are being used, we are told, in the African Great Lakes region and in Ethiopia, Jordan and Lebanon to help with refugee education.

We observed a group of about two dozen adolescent children, mostly girls, from the Doha British School and the Doha Modern Indian School. Some of the girls wore blue-white striped shirts and pants as uniforms; other girls were in uniforms of skirts and solid blue button-down shirts with neckties and blazers. The children were seated at rectangular tables, working with scissors, construction paper, aluminum foil, balloons and modeling compound in purple, orange and other colors. Some took pinches of compound, pressed it into balls or discs, and arranged them on paper. They then inserted electric wires into the compound. Others blew up balloons and wrapped them in aluminum foil. We were told the children were using such materials to prepare accessories for video games.

At 10:57 a.m., FLOTUS came into the exhibit space. She was shown some books, including "Big Noisy Book for Animals." She smiled and waved to the giggling and excited schoolgirls. Then she walked over to a group of three girls, shook each of their hands, hugged one. Then she moved to a table with several girls. We overheard snippets from FLOTUS as she shook all of their hands, too, and then crouched down at table-level and asked questions. Herewith the snippets:  "How are you? .... Nice to meet you ... What's your name? ... So you just figured this out now? (as she gestured to one of their projects) ... So what are you interested in studying? ... You're still figuring it out? You have time. ... Great to meet you. So proud of you guys.... Take care."

FLOTUS moved over to a clutch of students gathered around a laptop and exclaimed over their work with it.

At 11:03 a.m. your pool was ushered away.

An hour and five minutes later, your pool was ushered into Room 105 of the QNCC (Qatar National Convention Center), after taking note in passing of a two-story bronze sculpture in the central atrium by Louise Bourgeois called "The Spider." The monumental arachnid, a plaque said, quoting Bourgeois, "is an Ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. ... Like spiders, my mother was very clever." If you're ever in QNCC, The Spider is a convenient meeting point.

Anyway, back to Room 105. Your pool saw the beginnings of a roundtable discussion with FLOTUS seated at the head of an arrangement of three tables in a pattern more like an open horseshoe. To her right sat Sheikha Moza, and to her left Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia. Nine other women joined them, including Sakena Yacoobi, the WISE prize winner from 2015 mentioned in report #1. Among the others were representatives from the Netherlands, Mozambique, India, Pakistan, Qatar and Liberia.

Gillard, leading the discussion, lamented the obstacles girls face worldwide in obtaining education. "Educating a girl creates a virtuous circle of peace and prosperity for our societies," Gillard said.

FLOTUS then spoke briefly. "My purpose for being here is really to learn and listen," she said. FLOTUS said she wants to learn how she can best contribute, in the White House and, she implied, after the president's term ends in 2017. She said she wants to "continue to shine a light on this issue."

Sheikha Moza then spoke. "I believe we share lots of values with respect to education. Girls, boys, secondary, primary -- they're all facing the same problems." Sheikha Moza focused particularly on the troubles of education in war zones, noting that girls are especially likely to miss school when their country is in conflict.

At 12:18 your pool was ushered out of Room 105 and peeled off from the entourage to write this.

A transcript is coming, we're told, of FLOTUS speech and remarks. But in the meantime, as promised, here are a few more quotes we took down from the earlier speech:

FLOTUS lamented that even when girls are able to get secondary education, their challenges do not end.

"In many countries, they graduate only to find there’s no place for them in the workforce."

She touched on her own life experiences.

"Back when I was a girl, even though I was bright and curious, and I had plenty of opinions of my own, people were often more interested in hearing what my brother had to say. ...…I was even told that I would never be admitted to a prestigious university so I shouldn’t even bother to apply."

(Here your pool should mention that FLOTUS graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.)

"I was lucky because I had parents who believed in me, who had big dreams for me," FLOTUS said.

"I know from my own experience ... that we cannot separate the issue of how we treat girls from the issue of how we treat women more broadly in our society."

FLOTUS plugged Let Girls Learn, a White House initiative to help adolescents worldwide.

She added that equality of educational opportunity is an issue for everyone.

"Today, to all of the men here, I want to be very clear. We need you," she said, drawing slight laughter and significant applause. "As fathers, as husbands and simply as human beings, this is your struggle too."

Signing off as the FLOTUS motorcade leaves us here in QNCC.

--Nick Anderson

The Washington Post

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From: Anderson, Nick
Sent: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 2:01 AM
To: xxx@email.com; xxx@email.com; xxx@email.com; xxx@email.com
Subject: FLOTUS pool report #1

On Wednesday, the FLOTUS motorcade left the St. Regis Hotel in Doha on a bright and slightly breezy morning in the Qatar capital.  Wheels rolled at 8:34 a.m., and the first lady arrived at the Qatar National Convention Center 13 minutes later, across the street from a complex called Education City that hosts several U.S. universities. There, your pool found a seat in a cavernous auditorium that was hosting about 2,000 delegates to a gathering of educators, activists and education officials called the World Innovation Summit for Education. The delegates, we were told, came from more than 120 countries.

FLOTUS came here to speak at the conference, with an emphasis on promoting educational opportunity for adolescent girls. She entered the auditorium with Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, mother of Qatar's emir, shortly after 9 a.m. and sat in the front row. Sheikha Moza delivered a speech lamenting how the crisis in Syria and other conflicts are depriving millions of children of the opportunity to learn. "Ladies and gentlemen, education is under attack," she said. Sheikha Moza then urged a turnaround: "Let us shine a light of opportunity on the future of the world's youth," she said.

Sheikha Moza, after speaking, awarded a special prize to honor an Afghan woman named Sakena Yacoobi, who for many years has helped promote educational opportunity and health services in a central Asian nation beset by war and oppression. Yacoobi came onstage to receive a medal from Sheikha Moza, and FLOTUS joined them onstage to congratulate Yacoobi, posing with her and Sheikha Moza for a picture.

FLOTUS then took her turn at the podium at 9:35 a.m. She delivered an impassioned plea for access and opportunity for girls and women.  Following are some quick quotes, with more to come in a subsequent report.

She praised Sheikha Moza and Qatar for opening education to women, noting that two thirds of university students in the Gulf state are female. "It is due in large part to her leadership," FLOTUS said of Sheikha Moza.

She also praised the delegates. "You’re all doing this work for one simple reason—because like me you believe that every child on this plantet deserves the chance to fulfill their boundless potential," FLOTUS said. "We all know that right now we are far from achieving the goal."

She lamented that "62 million girls worldwide right now are not in school."

"When it comes to secondary education, girls still lag far behind," she said. She added: "When girls do attend secondary school, they often do so at great risk."

"We need to have an honest conversation about how we view and treat women in our societies," she said. She added: "This conversation needs to happen in every country on this planet, including my own."

The speech ended at 9:59 with applause and a standing ovation from the audience. More to come.

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