Hours after the president of the United States ridiculed a 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist who was chosen as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” a former first lady came to her defence.
“@GretaThunberg, don’t let anyone dim your light,” Michelle Obama tweeted at her on Friday morning. “Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on.”
Though Obama did not specify who the “doubters” were, the teenage climate activist has a very vocal one in the White House.
On Wednesday, Time named Thunberg its Person of the Year for her climate activism, which has sparked youth-led protests around the world to demand government action on climate change. She became the youngest person – and one of only a handful of solo women – to receive it.
The next day, Trump fired off a derisive tweet to his 67 million followers, calling Time’s choice “so ridiculous”.
“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump tweeted, before telling her to “Chill Greta, Chill!”
Democratic politicians swiftly criticised the president for attacking a teenage girl who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
Obama’s tweet, which focused more on encouraging Thunberg than criticism of the president, nevertheless added a high-profile voice to Thunberg’s chorus of supporters.
Thunberg and Trump have become unlikely foils in the international debate over climate change.
Thunberg leads a young, global movement of unapologetically frustrated climate change activists while Trump has long espoused climate change scepticism and his administration has attempted to dismantle numerous environmental protections.
His administration is in the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, an international pact in which countries vowed to curtail their emissions in an effort to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Thunberg, a Swedish teen who began skipping school last year to hold weekly climate vigils, has not held back when it comes to chastising politicians – and older generations – on their inaction on global warming.
At a UN climate summit in September, Thunberg told world leaders, “You’re failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you.”
Michelle Obama’s tweet is not the first time Thunberg has received the endorsement of the former first family. Thunberg met Barack Obama at his Washington office while visiting the US in September.
“You and me, we’re a team,” the former president said, before they exchanged a fist bump. “Good luck.”