Michelle Obama arrives at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London, Britain, on December 3, 2018. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Former US first lady Michelle Obama urged a group of London schoolgirls on Monday to ensure they played a role in tackling the bitterness and nastiness in current politics - by never wasting their vote.
Obama, 54, received a rock-star welcome from students from two central London girls' schools, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, before encouraging them to find their passion, mentors, and work hard to overcome any self-doubt.
It was a return trip for Obama - who is in London to promote her memoir Becoming - as she first visited the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in 2009 and has kept close ties with the school and nearby Mulberry School ever since.
While not mentioning President Donald Trump who replaced husband Barack Obama after eight years in the White House in 2017, she said it was important to give young people a reason to hope, particularly in the current divisive political climate.
"It is our responsibility to have hope, and act with hope and lead with hope," Obama told 300 teenage students.
"The one challenge we have - at least I know in our country - is harnessing the power we do have and not relinquishing that and by that I mean voting."
She said at the last presidential election in the United States many young people, Hispanic, and African American people did not vote - the same people who felt the most oppressed.
"Voting is how change happens in democracies," Obama said.
Asked often about her political ambitions, Obama makes it clear in her book she has no intention of going down that route.
"I have no intention of running for office, ever," she wrote. "I have never been a fan of politics and my experience over the past 10 years has done nothing to change that."
Obama said her visit to the London school in 2009 inspired her to use her time in the White House to campaign for education for all girls as well as work to combat childhood obesity.
A World Bank report this year said more than 130 million girls remain out of school despite the fact that women who have completed secondary education are more likely to work and earn on average nearly twice as much as those with no schooling.
Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, said girls had to find ways to overcome self-doubt.
Earlier this year, Obama was named the world's second-most admired woman, behind Angelina Jolie, in a YouGov poll, but she said she still sometimes questioned if she is good enough.
"How I overcame that? Hard work," said Obama, who has two daughters, aged 20 and 17.
"(But) I still feel at some level I have something to prove because of the colour of my skin, the shape of my body."
Obama will speak on Monday evening at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall about her memoir released last month.
Tickets to the event were hotly sought with many on social media saying there were more than 40,000 people in the line when booking opened and the venue intervened when tickets appeared on online marketplace Viagogo for thousands of pounds.
While Obama has not criticized Trump directly at events to promote her memoir, she does criticize him in the book.
Trump with "his loud and reckless innuendos" about her husband's birth certificate put "my family's safety at risk."
"And for this, I'd never forgive him," she wrote.