Michelle Obama on empowerment

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Michelle Obama on empowerment

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The former US First Lady and her mission to inspire women

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Rob Hello. This is 6 Minute English and I’m Rob.

Dan And I’m Dan.

Rob Now, do you know who Michelle Obama is?

Dan Er, yes. Maybe the most famous woman in the world? Former First Lady, which means she was the wife of the President of the United States of America.

Rob That is correct. She’s just published her autobiography and has been talking in the UK about her life. Before we find out more, here is this week’s question. When did the title First Lady first become used for the wife of the US president? Was it in the:

a) 18th Century b) 19th Century or c) 20th Century

Any ideas, Dan?

This could be a trick question. The first US presidents were in the 18th Century, and they had wives, but I think the actual term may only have been introduced much later - so I’m going to take a wild guess and say the 20th Century.

Rob OK. Well, I’ll have the answer later in the programme. Michelle Obama’s visit to the UK was covered on BBC News. According to this report, where did she visit that she had visited before?

BBC News Report The former First Lady spoke openly about a number of issues and one of her main messages was about empowerment. Earlier in the day Mrs Obama revisited a school in north London, a place where she says she was first inspired to focus on education during her time as the First Lady.

So, where did she revisit on this trip?

Dan She went to a school in north London. She said it was at this school that she was first inspired to focus on education. If you are inspired to do something, you get a strong feeling that you want to do something, you feel a strong motivation to achieve something particular, often because of something someone else has said or achieved.

Rob The report also mentioned that she spoke openly about a number of issues. To speak openly about something is when you discuss a subject, often a difficult subject, without trying to hide the facts or your feelings. It ‘s a phrase that is used when people talk about things in their life that they find difficult or embarrassing.

Dan One of the things she spoke openly about was her own feeling that she didn ‘t really belong, that she didn’t have the skills or talent to be doing what she was doing and that she didn’t deserve her position.

Rob There is a name for that. It’s called imposter syndrome - that feeling where you think one day everyone will realise that you’re really not very good at what you do.

Dan I get that feeling all the time!

Rob I wonder why? Because the thing with this imposter syndrome is that it isn’t justified. It’s more a lack of confidence or a result of the way society labels us.

Dan Well, anyway, back to the report. Michelle Obama was also keen to talk about the topic of empowerment. That’s giving people the strength, confidence and power to achieve what they want in life by themselves.

Rob Let’s hear from Michelle Obama herself now talking about how we sometimes judge people based on their class rather than their individual abilities.

Michelle Obama That’s often the mistake that we make, we assume that working-class folks are not highly gifted in their own right when a lot of times your station in life is limited by the circumstances that you find yourself in.

Rob She says here that we assume things about people based on their social status or station in life. To assume means ‘to make a judgement which is not based on the facts but on what we think is true’.

Dan She uses the phrase in their own right. When you say that someone is talented in their own right , it means that their talent comes from their own skills and abilities and not because of any connection with any organisation, individual or class that they happen to be associated with.

Before we wrap up, time to get the answer to this week’s question. When did the title First Lady first become used for the wife of the US president? Was it in the: a) 18th Century b) 19th Century or c) 20th Century

And Dan, you said?

Dan I thought it was the 20th Century.

Rob Well, you were right.

Dan Yay!

Rob But let me finish. You were right in that it was later than the 18th Century, which was when the first US presidents held their positions, but it wasn’t as late as the 20th Century. It was the second half of the 19th Century when the title First Lady began to be used. Now let’s review today’s vocabulary.

Dan We started with the phrase to talk openly about something. This means to discuss something, usually a difficult subject, without hiding your feelings, emotions or facts about that subject.

Rob Then there was the noun empowerment. This is the process of giving people the feeling that they are in control of their lives, making people more confident in their rights and abilities.

The verb inspire was next. If you inspire people, you give them the feeling that they want to and can do something, something difficult or creative. If you have that feeling yourself, you are inspired.

Rob Next there was the verb to assume something. To assume means ‘to make a judgement about someone or something not based on proof, but on things you think or believe to be true’.

Dan The next phrase was in their own right. If someone is successful in their own right , for example, it means their success is because of their own skills and abilities, and not because of who they work for, or work with or which social group they come from.

Rob And finally there was the noun phrase station in life.

Dan Your station in life is your position in society - your social status.

Rob And that brings us to the end of this week’s programme. We’ll be back soon and in the meantime you can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube our app and of course the website bbclearningenglish.com. Bye bye for now.

Dan Bye!

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