WASHINGTON – Former first lady Michelle Obama launched a new Obama Foundation program on Thursday, the Global Girls Alliance, putting an infrastructure in place to nourish one of her White House signature issues.
“When you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country,” Obama said on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“It makes no sense that the strength of our families, that girls and women are not getting educated, that they are not in school,” she said.
In the interview, Obama ruled out again any run for office. “Politics is just not my thing. It’s as simple as that.”
She also told the backstory of former President George W. Bush handing her what looked like a cough drop at the funeral of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, on Sept. 1 in the National Cathedral.
“I didn’t realize at the time that anybody noticed what we were doing. President Bush and I… we are forever seat mates because of protocol, that’s how we sit at all the official functions, so he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather,” she said. “So we’re together all the time, and I love him to death. He’s a wonderful man. He’s a funny man.”
It turned out that Bush passed her Altoids — from his time in the White House.
“I will add they were old cough drops. That’s the funny thing, because they were in the little White House box, and I was like, ‘How long have you had these?’ And he said, ‘A long time, we got a lot of these!’”
She also put some distance between herself and Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama’s first Attorney General, who advised Democrats to be hitting Republicans harder.
Mrs. Obama is sticking with her famous slogan, “when they go low, we go high.”
“Fear is not a proper motivator. Hope wins out,” she said Thursday on “Today.” “And if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want to think about life and their opportunities? Do you want them afraid of your neighbors? Do you want them angry, do you want them vengeful? We think of the values that we try to promote to our children.”
Obama’s post presidential life includes a Netflix development deal, involvement in a voter registration drive, speaking engagements, and the publication of her memoir, “Becoming,” with her book tour kicking off Nov. 13 in Chicago, a week after the mid-term elections.
With the announcement timed to the International Day of the Girl on Thursday, the program addresses the problem of 98 million girls who face barriers to education.
The former president and first lady and their foundation do not want to duplicate the work of organizations already devoted to their post-presidential causes.
Rather, they want to bolster the existing organizations and their leaders by using their considerable power to network and support grassroots leaders so they do not work in isolation or without money.
The alliance actually soft launched this summer, a spokesman for the Obama Foundation said, in a series of meetings with leaders of organizations already helping adolescent girls go to school.
On Thursday, the financial piece of the alliance was announced — a GoFundMe drive to launch the Global Girls Alliance Fund — to provide money to groups around the world devoted to girls education.
There is no cash donation at this time from the Obama Foundation or the Obamas to this fund, a foundation spokesman confirmed in response to a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry.
The first lady created “Let Girls Learn” in 2015 and the Trump administration did not continue to use that brand, a not unexpected development.
A foundation spokesman told the Sun-Times, “We soft launched the network for grassroots leaders earlier this summer, and it now includes about 1,400 grassroots leaders from around the world. For the past several months, these leaders have been sharing their work with each other and suggesting resources for each other based on mutual interests.
“This network will grow, but we’re already seeing how members interact and collaborate together.”
“… Once the alliance launches, we anticipate sharing more resources with the grassroots leaders on the network, such as access to speakers, webinars, and technical resources.”
Among the groups the foundation is already working with:
Camfed (global organization with offices in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere)
Discovery Learning Alliance
Study Hall Educational Foundation (India)
The Obama Foundation also addresses the needs of at-risk minority males through its “My Brother’s Keeper” program.