Obama and Copeland Get Real on Race and Body Image

What happens when two history makers sit down for a conversation with TIME? They discuss some of the most prominent cultural issues of today — at least that’s what happened when President Barack Obama and ballerina Misty Copeland spoke with TIME‘s Maya Rhodan.

According to ELLE, the pair discussed everything from race to body image issues, sharing the different challenges associated with each. Saying that being a father has made him more aware of the pressures placed on women, President Obama said, “When you’re a dad of two daughters, you notice more … And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women.”

Copeland agreed and said that, by owning who she is, she hopes she can inspire other girls to do the same. But, she said that social media has helped foster a more pervasive sense of acceptance:

But to have movements like Black Girl Magic, I think it couldn’t be more positive for a young black girl to see that it’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to not have to transform and look like what you may see on the cover of a lot of magazines. That you are beautiful, that it’s possible to succeed in any field that you want to, looking the way that you do.

When asked what they think is the greatest fixable obstacle facing young people today, Responding that attaining an adequate education is the most significant obstacle, President Obama explained:

But the foundation that all this depends is making sure that on the front end, when these little babies are born and start to get curious about the world and are like sponges, that we are giving them the kind of education and the nurturing that they need. So that they’re off to a good start. And that involves an imaginative leap, a moral leap on the part of the society as a whole that says every kid should get a genuine opportunity and we’re willing to put money behind it, and we’re willing to invest in that to break cycles of poverty.

Copeland offered that being able to see how one fits into society while also maintaining a sense of self, as well as learning how to be an empathetic person, is important.

“…To be empathetic to everyone around you I think is such a powerful thing to hold. To be able to forgive. All of those things I think can strengthen this generation of our youth. I think having a strong sense of self and just knowing who they are and being comfortable with that.”

To watch the entire conversation, click here.

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