Fw: FLOTUS Tokyo pool report #1

From: Fifield, Anna [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 10:29 PM
To: Adler, Caroline; Donohue, Kelsey; Rosholm, Joanna
Subject: FLOTUS Tokyo pool report #1

Good morning from Tokyo, where it’s Thursday morning already.

Michelle Obama arrived at 10.07am local at the Iikura guest house, a ceremonial reception building in central Tokyo, where her Japanese counterpart, the prime minister’s wife Akie Abe, was waiting.  They stopped and posed for a photo in front of the American and Japanese flags, then went into a private meeting until 10:30am.

They came out into the main hall area for the “Let Girls Learn” education event (fact sheet sent separately by the White House), together with the US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy. About 100 American and Japanese girls and young women were waiting, some of them Girl Scouts in uniform from the West Pacific Camp Zama Army Base and Yokota Air Base here in Japan.

Among the students, the Japanese schools with the greatest representation (per WH) are:
Tamakata High School
Sacred Heart (Women’s University)
OECD Tohoku High School
Ochanomizu (Women’s University)
Tsudakuku (Women’s University)
Otsuma (Women’s University)

Please check remarks against transcript, but in summary:

Caroline Kennedy said no two countries were more committed to advancing women’s education than the U.S. and Japan, that the "powerful new initiative” of Let Girls Learn could have the same kind of international impact as the Peace Corps, founded by her father JFK, and change thousands of lives.

Akie Abe welcomed Mrs Obama, talked about the robust relationship between the U.S. and Japan, said that they would now work together to promote education for girls around the world, particularly in developing countries where girls are sent to work instead of to school. (Fun fact: Mrs Abe wrote her master’s thesis on education in Myanmar.)

Michelle Obama greeted the audience with a “konnichi wa,” which generated laughs in the hall. Talking about the global education “crisis”, she said 62 million girls worldwide are not in school and said that this was usually considered an economic issue. "This is also about attitudes and beliefs,” she said, saying it’s about whether parents considered their daughters as worthy of educating as their sons.

She talked about her personal history of growing up in a working class neighborhood where few people went to university, in a world where she repeatedly received the message "that someone like me wasn’t supposed to have big dreams”. She talked about going to Princeton, being a lawyer/executive and setting an example for her own daughters.

She cited several successful Japanese women – including a diplomat, a musician and an astronaut – and asked the audience to imagine if these women had not been educated, encouraged. Mrs Obama used the Abe administration’s “womenomics” catchphrase - “let women shine” - several times in her speech.

Mrs Obama, Mrs Abe and Caroline Kennedy then went into a roundtable meeting (although there was no table) with about 20 young women, where they were going to discuss girls’ education. Also present was Naoko Saiki, director-general for economic affairs at the Japanese foreign ministry and one of the most high-profile female diplomats here.

Mrs Obama told the girls that she was “incredibly excited" about helping developing countries.  "There is nothing more important than getting an education,” she said, adding that it's an "injustice" that 62 million girls around the world are not in school.

Pool was then sent out of the room.


Anna Fifield
Tokyo Bureau Chief
The Washington Post
Phone: +81-80-4136-1403
Twitter: @annafifield

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