From grinning, eager kindergarteners to college students returning to campus, the first day of school is a universal new start — whether exciting or dreadful, or sometimes, both. For those who no longer have September to mark the passage of time, it may come with a jolting reminder of times past. Former First Lady Michelle Obama knows what feels like, and on Instagram, she showcased one of the most quintessential parts of the back-to-school experience: picture day. Michelle Obama's 2019 back-to-school TBT photo has an inspiring message that may have students feeling a little bit better about returning to class.
In the caption, Obama wrote about “all the young people heading back to school and reflecting on my own days as a student in Chicago.” She reminisced about the things she — and all of us, really — went through as students. “I learned a lot in school—how to do my multiplication tables and structure a paragraph, yes, but also how to push myself, be a good friend, and dust myself off after a failure,” she wrote.
The post features an adorable image of the former first lady as a young student sometime in the 1970s, complete with short bangs and an awkward smile. Her plaid outfit and brooch necklace really complete the effect. It looks like a photo you’d find in a family photo book, or in your dad’s wallet. To be honest, the fact that she seems to have blinked in the photo just makes it that much more relatable.
Her post was not really about herself, though. Obama had a bigger point to make about how easy it is for people, especially those in the United States, to take education for granted. Just as her education led her to become a top administrator at the University of Chicago, write a best-selling memoir, and tackle children's issues in the White House, she wants other girls to have the same chance, too.
“I believe every girl on the planet deserves the same kind of opportunities that I’ve had — a chance to fulfill her potential and pursue her dreams,” she wrote. “We know that when we give girls a chance to learn, they’ll seize it. And when they do, our whole world benefits.”
Obama made the post to her 32 million Instagram and 13 million Twitter followers on World Charity Day. She chose to tag the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which is a program of the Obama Foundation, focused on empowering adolescent girls and grassroots education leaders across the world. The post urged others to also share back to school photos and visit the program's GoFundMe. Obama launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance almost one year ago on Oct. 11, 2018, the International Day of the Girl.
During her time in the White House from 2008 to 2016, Obama often prioritized education and women’s issues. In 2010, she launched efforts to promote physical activity and healthy nutrition among children, which first brought her interest in youth policy to the public eye. Over the coming years, she would also spearhead Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn, which aim to help students go to and stay in school.
Obama herself received a formidable education. A Chicago South Side native, she attended Whitney Young Magnet High School, a public magnet school for gifted children, and graduated as salutatorian. She then headed to Princeton and Harvard Universities for her undergraduate sociology and law school degrees, respectively.
With both of her daughters off to college, Obama is now an empty nester, but she’s still taking the role of nation’s mom very seriously. She and her husband have often said their role as parents always comes first. It seems there's no sign of her slowing down on a national level either, when it comes to getting girls healthy, happy, and on the path to taking their own back-to-school photos.