Michelle Obama: Pray for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

First lady Michelle Obama says she and President Obama are "outraged and heartbroken" about the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls. Some see political advantage in the tragedy.

The White House
First lady Michelle Obama joins others on Twitter seeking release of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

On the eve of Mother’s Day, first lady Michelle Obama used the media slot normally reserved for her husband to deliver a heartfelt message about the hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.

In the weekly White House radio/Internet address Saturday, Mrs. Obama said, “Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.”

“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls,” she said. “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident, the first lady said.

“It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community, and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates. 

“But fortunately Malala survived, and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.”

As is inevitable in Washington, the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls has been tinged with domestic politics.

The Daily Beast reports that under Hillary Clinton, the State Department repeatedly declined to fully go after the terror group responsible for the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria.

Mrs. Clinton, or course, leads all other potential candidates in the 2016 presidential contest. And she is the target of Republican criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the 2012 attack by Islamic militants on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel.

“The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years,” Josh Rogin writes in the Daily Beast. “And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls.”

Republicans have widely circulated the Daily Beast story, Politico.com reports

“The actual details of why the Clinton-run Department declined to affix the group with terrorist status are complicated – her former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, was reportedly concerned about elevating the group among extremist outfits, and potentially giving the Nigerian government latitude to go after them in an inhumane way,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes. “But those explanations won’t end up being spliced into a 30-second political ad. And the story gives Republicans another chance to stoke doubts about her leadership at State.”

Politics aside, Mrs. Obama said Saturday, “These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world…and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul.”

“We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential,” she said. “So today, let us all pray for their safe return... let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.”

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