Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 17:52 UK

First lady moved by school visit


Michelle Obama is mobbed by pupils in Islington

The world needs strong young women to pave the way for the future, an emotional US First Lady Michelle Obama has told schoolgirls in London.

Mrs Obama was close to tears as she addressed the excited crowd at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, north London.

She told them: "We are counting on every single one of you to be the best that you can be."

Mrs Obama is in the UK with husband Barack for the G20 summit.

Her visit to the north London school was greeted with much excitement by pupils and she sat smiling, riveted, as Year 11 pupil Grace Hollowell and the school's junior choir performed the Whitney Houston hit Believe.

Mrs Obama, a mother of two girls herself, smiled and watched intently throughout the other performances, which also included a modern-day staging of The Tempest, and a presentation on the school's new Learning To Lead scheme.

'Strength and dignity'

The first lady high-fived one pupil after the performance before she took to the podium for her speech.

As she addressed the crowd, Mrs Obama choked up, saying: "Wow. I can't follow that. Let me tell you, I am just very touched and moved by all of you."

You too can control your own destiny, please remember that
Michelle Obama

In a brief speech to about 100 pupils she spoke of her working class upbringing in the South Side of Chicago, saying she was "an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them".

She went on: "I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.

"You too can control your own destiny, please remember that.

"Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.

"It won't be easy, that's for sure, but you have everything you need. Everything you need you already have right here.

"We are counting on you, we are counting on every single one of you to be the best that you can be.

"We know you can do it, we love you, thank you so much."

"Phenomenal woman'

Mrs Obama also spoke of the "special relationship" between the US and the UK, based on a common language and shared values.

She said she had met Britain's "most extraordinary women" on her first official visit as first lady, including the Queen and Chancellor Alistair Darling's wife Maggie, who she called a "true firebrand".

She described Prime Minister Gordon Brown's wife Sarah as a "phenomenal woman who has been charming and delightful".

Earlier in the day, the partners of G20 leaders heard a reading by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, at an event hosted by her friend Sarah Brown.

They visited Covent Garden's Royal Opera House, where Ms Rowling entertained them with excerpts from her latest book, The Tales Of Beedle The Bard.

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