First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) today. For more than 30 years, CHCI has been working to develop the next generation of leaders for the future of the Hispanic community and the country as a whole through scholarships, fellowships, and career programs.
She discussed the need for forward-looking organizations like CHCI to address the challenges of tomorrow, particularly the challenge of childhood obesity in America. An issue important to Mrs. Obama, not just as First Lady, but as a mother.
Now, we all know this is a serious problem in every single community in this country. But like with so many of the other challenges we face today, communities of colors have been hit especially hard. Nearly two in five Hispanic children are overweight or obese. And this isn’t just teenagers or school-age kids that we’re talking about. Believe it or not, the obesity rate among Hispanic preschoolers is higher than their white or African American peers.
And we all know what this means for their overall health. We all know the links between obesity and cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
But we also know that childhood obesity is not a stand-alone problem. We know that it is bound up in just about every other issue that we face. It is about health care. It’s about education, economic opportunity. It’s about how our food is processed, and how our cities are designed, how our children spend each day in school. It’s about the restaurants where we eat, and the grocery stores where we shop, and the decisions we make for our children every single day: decisions about how much time they spend with TV and video games, as opposed to running around outside; decisions about what they eat, how much of it, and how often. So we all have a stake in this problem. And we all have a role in finding a solution.
That’s why the First Lady launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide campaign to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation and she asked for CHCI's help in solving it. From working to sign up schools for the Healthier US Schools Challenge to encouraging kids to enroll in the 6-week President’s Active Lifestyle Awards program, there are countless ways to make an impact. And one way is by starting at home.
It’s about families making manageable changes that fit with their budgets and schedules, with their needs and with their tastes. And that might be something as simple as going for regular walks with your kids or maybe turning off the TV and turning on the radio and dancing a little bit in the living room until you break a sweat. (Laughter.) That counts.
Small things like cutting back on portion sizes or replacing soda with water or just putting some more fruits and vegetables on the table, all of this can add up over time and make a big difference in the lives of our kids. And, believe me, you don’t have to throw Abuela’s cookbook out the window. (Laughter and applause.)
There is a role for those time-honored family recipes, but it’s about moderation. It’s about doing our best to monitor what our kids are consuming. How many snacks are they eating? How many sodas are they drinking? Has dessert become an all-the-time food instead of just a once-in-a-while treat? It’s about being proactive, about going to the doctor and getting our kids screened for obesity.
But most of all, it’s about doing something. There are countless ways for us to start making a difference. The key is to start now, because when it comes to our children’s health and happiness, when it comes to their future, we don’t have a moment to waste. And if anyone knows what it takes to make real change in this country, it’s all of you. It’s what you’ve been doing for nearly 35 years.
In closing, the First Lady touched on the core mission of the organization and the health of our nation's kids:
Now I remember hearing that when you all started the Hispanic Caucus back in 1976, the Speaker of the House joked that the first meeting could be held in a phone booth, because back then you had just five members. And now, you have 23. (Applause.) CHCI’s first class of fellows was all of four strong. And today, there are more than 5,000 students that have benefited from your educational services and your leadership development programs.
See, now those are results, right? That’s the kind of real impact that you have had, and can have, on this nation and on our children. And that’s the core mission of this organization, to give our children opportunities that we never dreamed of for ourselves. And that’s why all of you have organized. It’s why you’ve marched. It’s why you stood up and spoke out and refused to back down, no matter what kind of odds you faced.
And I don’t think any one in this room -- or any of your parents or grandparents -- fought so hard for so long only to see a future where the greatest threat to our children is their own health.
But the good news is, is that we can do something about this. This is one of those problems that’s in our hand. The solution to this problem is right within our grasp, but only if we reach for it, and only if we work for it and fight for it, only if we once again summon that urgency that has spurred us forward, generation after generation, seeking something better for our children.