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U.S., Mexican First Ladies Share Similar Backgrounds, Interests

Lauren Monsen - Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State

Washington - When Michelle Obama visits Mexico April 13-15, she will be making her first solo official trip abroad as U.S. first lady - and meeting with another first lady, Mexico's Margarita Zavala de Calderón, who shares her interest in education and young people.

According to a White House statement ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2010/March/20100312171344eaifas0.9580303.html ), Mrs. Obama "will have the opportunity to engage the citizens of Mexico, particularly young people, and build on her recent conversation with Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala de Calderón on the issues of education and economic advancement" in both their countries.

Mrs. Obama previously met with Mrs. Calderón, wife of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, at the White House on February 25, when they discussed such problems as obesity, diabetes, addictions and the situation of undocumented Mexican minors in the United States. They also met twice in 2009, when accompanying their husbands on official travel: in Rome on July 8, at the G8 (Group of Eight) Summit, and in Pittsburgh on September 24, at the G20 Summit.

The two first ladies are contemporaries with similar backgrounds as accomplished career women. Mrs. Obama, 46, is a Harvard-trained attorney who worked at the University of Chicago Hospitals, first as executive director for community affairs and later as vice president for community and external affairs. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a nonpartisan organization that hosts programs and events featuring experts with diverse views on a wide range of global topics.

Mrs. Calderón, 42, is an attorney and served in the Mexican Legislature from 2003 to 2006. She has worked as a law professor and currently serves as president of an advisory board for DIF (el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, or the Integral Development of the Family), a government agency that helps to develop and strengthen families in Mexico. She also teaches secondary school students in the private school Asuncion.

In addition to carrying out their official duties, both first ladies are raising children. Mrs. Obama has two daughters, Malia and Sasha, and Mrs. Calderón has a daughter, Maria, and two sons, Luis Felipe and Juan Pablo. The U.S. first lady, who has described her primary role as "mom-in-chief," says that her experience as a mother has fueled her concern for the well-being of all young people.

Mrs. Obama's engagement with young people began early in her tenure as U.S. first lady. In 2009, she established a kitchen garden ( http://www.america.gov/st/educ-english/2009/July/20090707173746bcreklaw0.7472498.html ) on the White House grounds and invited students from a Washington school to join her in planting and harvesting fruits, vegetables and herbs. On April 2, Mrs. Obama was joined by 45 students from local schools for the spring planting of the White House kitchen garden. The garden is a tangible symbol of Mrs. Obama's effort to help families make healthier food choices and to create healthier school environments, particularly with regard to school meals.

The U.S. first lady also recently launched the "Let's Move" initiative, aimed at reducing childhood obesity in the United States. In addition, she often visits schools and talks with youngsters about the importance of education, volunteer work and community service. During her trip to London in April 2009, Mrs. Obama advised a group of nearly 200 schoolgirls to pursue their educations and their dreams. Recalling her childhood in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago, she told the girls: "If you want to know the reason why I am standing here, it's because of education. You, too, can control your own destiny. You, too, can pave the way."

Mrs. Obama has cited the plight of military families as another of her priorities. In her first trip outside Washington as first lady, she visited military families in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to learn more about the hardships faced by families affected by a loved one's deployment.

For her part, Mrs. Calderón is known for her work to promote gender equality, improve services for migrant children and support low-income families.

A statement by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mrs. Obama's visit to Mexico recognizes the deep ties between Mexico and the United States, and that the first lady's international agenda will amplify President Obama's commitment to advancing mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between nations and peoples around the world.

See also: Michelle Obama Defines Own Role as First Lady ( http://www.america.gov/st/usg-english/2009/June/20090629092010degrebsginek0.475445.html ).

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