LONDON — First Lady Michelle Obama will head to Europe next week in a visit intended to highlight initiatives to improve girls’ education, promote healthy eating and support the families of service members.
She’ll also cook with Italian chefs, take in the sights of Venice and meet a prince.
White House officials said Friday that the visit to Britain and Italy, which begins Monday and continues through next Sunday, will add international dimension to causes the first lady has adopted as her own.
The first stop is London, where Obama is expected to visit a girls’ school and talk with students about the White House’s recently announced Let Girls Learn initiative.
Obama and her husband, the president, have said the initiative was inspired by a conversation with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen and who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Friday that the issue is one that the United States and the United Kingdom often partner on in international development work.
“It sends a very powerful message for both the U.S. and the U.K. to be working together on an initiative like Let Girls Learn,” Rhodes said.
U.S. officials have lately expressed concern about Britain’s apparent withdrawal from world affairs, as the country has slashed its military budget and taken a relatively low-key role in the West’s standoff with Russia. But Britain’s Conservative government has steadfastly protected international aid budgets, and British officials say the country’s ability to wield “soft power” is as robust as ever.
The school Obama will visit is in an East London neighborhood that is heavily populated by South Asian immigrants. It’s just a mile from another school, the Bethnal Green Academy, that three teenage girls attended before traveling in February to areas of Syria controlled by the Islamic State. Their case shocked Britain and focused attention on the danger of girls becoming seduced by extremist propaganda.
While in London, Obama is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and with Prince Harry.
In Italy, Obama will represent the United States at the Milan Expo 2015, a world’s fair-style event that is focused this year on food security. As part of her Let’s Move campaign to promote healthy eating, Obama is expected to take part in a cooking demonstration with Italian chefs and students.
She’ll also speak with soldiers and their families at the U.S. army base in Vicenza and visit tourist spots in nearby Venice.
Obama will be accompanied by her teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha, as well as her mother, Marian Robinson.