DENVER — Former first lady Michelle Obama stopped in Denver on Tuesday evening in one of her first public appearances since leaving the White House in January.
The speaking engagement was put on by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado as its 30th anniversary celebration at the Pepsi Center.
“From the moment that we heard Mrs. Obama had accepted our invitation the energy level within this office wall palpable,” WFCO president and CEO Laura Casteel said.
Casteel joined Obama onstage to host a discussion of topics ranging from empowerment to policy.
“Don’t despair in your teenage years, even if you’re bullied. The best is yet to come. I’m living my best years in my 50s,” Obama told the crowd.
She also touched on the need for policy change regarding education of young women to encourage them to continue studying math and science.
“Why do we set time limits on learning? Just because you aren’t ready by test day doesn’t mean you are bad at that subject,” she said.
One of the largest themes Obama focused on was making sure all children understand their worth. She believes that begins with adults encouraging children on daily and will lead them to be more successful adults.
“It’s listening and validation on a day-to-day basis and that doesn’t require legislations,” she said.
Obama spoke for about an hour to the nearly sold-out crowd.
“I want people to leave feeling a sense of community, understanding the power of philanthropy, understanding that they can be a part of making a difference in the lives of others,” Casteel said.
The event attracted people of all ages, races, ethnicities and socio-economic levels. While it was focused on women’s issues, several men were in attendance.
“It’s OK. I don’t mind being the minority,” Charlie Piper said.
Piper and his wife attended the discussion because he said he needed some inspiration.
“It’s just as important, maybe more important for men to hear what she has to say than women,” he said. "Because men often forget, I think, that it’s not a man’s world. It’s a men’s world and a women’s world, and I think we need to be reminded of that.”
Many young women and girls were also there, calling Obama a role model.
“For me, personally, it’s because of how much representation and advocacy she has done for women,” high school junior Iftu Abdi said.
About a dozen young women from all over Colorado were chosen to stand on stage ahead of Obama’s appearance to introduce her. The girls said it was an inspiring once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m just a rising junior from Denver. You would never think that I would have the chance to introduce the former first lady. It’s wild,” Solliana Kineferigb said.