Pembroke girl’s note wins White House visit, Obama praise

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PEMBROKE – Annoyed by her younger brother’s teasing comments that women’s soccer was inferior while she watched a championship game in June, 13-year-old Ayla Ludlow knew exactly what to do. So she fired off a note to the president of the United States.

“Whoever is reading this should know that I hate the fact that boys’ sports always get the most attention,” she wrote to President Barack Obama after the spat with her brother Nick while watching a World Cup match.

“It makes me mad that people do not treat girls equally. Plus a lot of girls are better at sports than boys,” Ludlow said in her handwritten note. “So all I am saying is that I want to do something about it. And I need your help.”

Ayla Ludlow, 13, of Pembroke, shows off a poster she made, inspired from her visit to the White House Tuesday. (Photo by Kara Bettis)

Ayla Ludlow, 13, of Pembroke, shows off a poster she made, inspired from her visit to the White House Tuesday. (Photo by Kara Bettis)

It touched a chord at the White House, in a big way. The administration invited her to ceremonies commemorating the World Cup championship won by the U.S. women’s soccer team in July. Topping it off, Obama had her introduce him at the event on Tuesday and then mentioned her in his remarks welcoming the winners.

“I was really nervous,” the middle schooler said in an interview at her home the next day. Despite her butterflies over going to the White House, she went partly because “everyone kept telling me I should do it,” she said.

Following the event, her note went viral after the White House put Obama’s compliment about her out on Twitter, along with an image of the carefully penned missive. It sparked hundreds of comments.

“Nothing gives me more hope than knowing that we’ve got a whole generation of young women like Ayla,” Obama said in the tweet.

Back home in Pembroke, messages of support have flooded in. During the interview, Ludlow paused multiple times to check her phone for fresh comments from girls inspired by her letter. That has led her to ponder how to harness the outpouring into a mini movement, and for now she’s asking girls to create posters with inspiring “girl power” phrases and themes.

“I just wanted to be heard, because it’s not fair,” she said about the amount of attention given to men’s sports compared with women’s. “We deserve the same amount as guys.”

Ludlow says she’s inspired by Michelle Obama’s public advocacy for women’s rights. And although she’s always wanted to be a pediatrician when she grows up, now she’s considering a career that involves public speaking.

Her father, Curt Ludlow, said he is “overwhelmed” by the events of this week and impressed by his daughter’s poise and stage presence. Ayla, he added, has always had “her own personality.”

For Ayla, writing that note proved to be a very good move, and one forceful reply to her little brother’s teasing.

“I never thought my note would bring me here to the women I was watching on TV,” Ayla said at the White House. “Having the opportunity to stand before this group is simply amazing, and I’m never going to forget this moment.”

President Obama thanked her, joking: “I don’t know where your brother is right now, but this is some payback right here. You just had a national audience let him know what’s what.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or @karabettis