Michelle Obama said she and the president "see our own daughters" in the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and called them an inspiration in the fight to educate women and girls around the world.
Sitting in for President Obama to deliver the weekly video address from the White House on Saturday, Obama praised the girls and their parents for pursuing education even though they knew that it might be dangerous.
"Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats, but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams," Obama said in a video posted on the White House website.
"They were so determined to move to the next level of their education, so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud," she said.
The clip aired hours after seven military advisors arrived in Nigeria on Friday to support the search for more than 200 girls still missing three weeks after terrorists attacked their school dormitory in the middle of the night.
They join 10 Department of Defense planners who were already posted in Nigeria and were sent to join the kidnapping response after Secretary of State John F. Kerry made a promise to assist Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan earlier this week.
About 10 State Department and other civilian and law enforcement personnel are on their way to assist as well, an administration official said Friday.
As the Obama administration scrambled its resources, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he would convene a hearing to look into the administration's response to the crisis and its approach to dealing with Boko Haram, the terrorist group claiming responsibility for the abduction.
"It is clear that a piecemeal approach to Boko Haram, with limited U.S. military involvement, has been ineffective to date," said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).
In her video address, Obama said the president has directed the U.S. government "to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government's efforts" to find the girls and bring them home.
She also argued that the threat to girls who pursue an education is not an isolated one, citing the case of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.
Worldwide, more than 65 million girls are unschooled, according to U.S. estimates.
"Yet we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives and have healthier families," Obama said. "And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country's entire economy."
The plight of the missing Nigerian girls should inspire Americans to fight for change, she said, and to take their own studies seriously.