Today, President Obama welcomed to the White House more than 650 student athletes and 150 coaches and staff members, from 32 schools across the nation. Gathering on the South Lawn, the President offered his congratulations on their 2009-2010 Division One NCAA Championships. Teams from various sports—volleyball, tennis, swimming, fencing, lacrosse, hockey and more--lined up to participate in this tradition, which was started by the previous administration.
In addition to congratulating them on their athletic achievements, President Obama acknowledged the athletes’ scholastic accomplishments, underscoring their ability to make the grades, as well as the goals, and lend credence to the term “student-athlete.” The President also acknowledged the teams’ incredible work to organize blood drives, cook for families of sick children, and build houses for the homeless. One young man even donated bone marrow to a little girl he had never met. As he said, “Saving someone's life is a lot more important than a football game.”
As role models and volunteers, these athletes contribute in countless ways to the world around them. And that makes them, as the President pointed out, truly champions.
Alex Lasry is the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Engagement and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.