Washington (CNN) – Michelle Obama was asked on Wednesday why it’s important to speak up in her position and her jovial answer to a group of African first spouses highlighted many men have come to realize over time: Women are smarter than men as a whole.
“Women are smarter than men,” Obama quipped to a chorus of laughs at the African Leaders Spousal Summit in Washington. “And the men can’t complain because you’re outnumbered today.”
The event, co-sponsored by the Bush Institute, brought together first spouses throughout Africa who are in Washington for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit.
Former First Lady Laura Bush joined Obama on-stage and fielded questions from journalist Cokie Roberts. This is the second time Obama and Bush have appeared on stage together. The two also joined forces last year in Tanzania at the African First Ladies Summit.
Obama and Bush discussed women’s rights issues from around the world, saying those problems must be addressed before other major issues – like climate change, disease and famine – are addressed.
“Men, leaders, women, until we value women and girls, we won’t tackle those other problems,” Obama said. “Until we prioritize our girls and understand that they are important and that their education is as important as the education of our sons, then we will have lots of work to do.”
Bush echoed that sentiment. “Only countries where all people are involved can be successful,” she said.
“When we look around the world and see countries where half of the population is marginalized or left out, then we usually see countries that are failing,” Bush added.
President George W. Bush has been praised by Democrats and Republicans alike for his considerable focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Bushes have continued that effort since leaving office and expanded it to include health screenings for women. The former president was also in the audience on Wednesday, saying he was joining because he’s a “spouse.”
With just over two years left of her time in the White House, Obama was asked what she wants to leave behind while also looking at opportunities for the future.
“There is nothing wrong with thinking about legacy and what we want to leave for the world,” Obama said. “I don’t think we should be afraid as women to have those conversations. It’s too soon for me to do it now but the time will come and I will embrace that.”
In the meantime, Obama said, the fight for women’s rights and especially girls continues.
“We have to fight for our girls,” Obama concluded. “There should never be a girl in this world who has to fear getting educated. That should be something that is intolerable to us.”
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