This weekend, the first lady took over the president's weekly address to give a Mother's Day message and more importantly to discuss the plight of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents, expressing the heartbreak and exasperation we all feel regarding the situation.
In the roughly six-minute video, Obama discussed the bravery of the schoolgirls, who continued to attend school in face of Boko Haram threats, calling the terrorist group "grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls." She also likened the situation to that of Malala Yousafzai, who recently penned a piece for TIME magazine expressing solidarity with the girls and their community and calling on the international community to "Bring Back Our Girls." Obama then ended on a sort of odd motherly note, asking American students including those who might be "slacking off or thinking about dropping out" not to take education for granted.
Michelle Obama's video was very touching. It was a smart move to give more coverage to the crisis. And it also demonstrates just how helpless we as American citizens are in this situation.
We all want to bring the girls home. It's simple enough, right? But at the same time, there are cultural and political aspects so complicated and so foreign to us, we as Americans are barely equipped to talk about it, so when we do, it's mostly on an emotional level. We relate by imagining it was our sisters or daughters that were taken because this is not something that Americans are accustomed to dealing with.
It speaks volumes to the situation that one of the big takeaways from this crisis is that Americans should be grateful for what we have. That's exactly what people say when they really don't have anything better or new to say. The tragedies and crises of other countries does really put things into perspective for us. And yes, as an American, I am grateful for the education I have received. But sometimes self-reflection becomes a way to simply comfort ourselves in stagnation and helplessness.
All in all, the video is keeping the urgency of the situation present. And while it points to a huge void in cultural understanding, at this point in the conversation (not regarding the actual measures taken to bring those students home) it might just be the best we can do. While it might not be perfect, I do think that Michelle Obama hits it on the head when she says "these girls embody the best hope for the future of our world."