The First Lady Hosts Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the White House

April 24, 2014 | 26:01 | Public Domain

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with children of Executive Office employees at the White House’s annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and takes questions from the audience.

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Remarks by the First Lady in Q&A With Children at Take-Your-Daughters-And-Sons-To-Work Day

East Room

11:10 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  (Applause.)  Hey, you guys.  How are you doing?


MRS. OBAMA:  Have you been having -- awesome.  Have you been having fun today?


MRS. OBAMA:  All right.  Give me -- what’s the best thing you’ve done so far?  Just yell it out.  Let’s hear.

CHILDREN:  Eating food.

MRS. OBAMA:  You’ve eaten good food?  Getting to meet me?  Did you see the bees?  Did you go out and see the garden?


MRS. OBAMA:  That sounds good.  Well, I’m glad you’re having fun.  I love talking to you guys, because I really, often, don’t take questions with the press in the room.  So I only do this with you guys, so I trust that you will be on your Ps and Qs, because the whole world is watching, okay?  (Laughter.)

But one of the reasons why this day is so special for us is because you guys are pretty special people -- yes, there they go.  We know how much you guys sacrifice because your parents work here.  I mean, for many of you, I know it’s hard when your mom or your dad says, I’m going to miss dinner tonight because I’ve got to work late, or there’s a meeting on Saturday so I’ll miss your game, or I have to travel next week and I might not get to that recital.  Our kids go through it and it’s not a lot of fun.

But it’s important for you to know that when you guys show appreciation to your parents for the hard work that they do, it helps the President.  And that’s what we tell our kids.  Sometimes we make sacrifices -- sometimes pretty huge sacrifices -- so that the country runs a little bit better.  And you guys are at the forefront of that sacrifice.

So we’re very proud of you all, and grateful for you guys being the great kids that you are.  That’s why we make this day so special for you.  So thank you.  Thank you for your patience and your intelligence, and for behaving and doing everything your parents tell you to do -- because I know you’re doing that, right?  Okay, good.  Just keep it up.

So with that, I’ll take questions, okay?  So I’m going to try to mix around.  I’m going to go from section to section and try to get a mix of boys and girls, so I’m going to call out a color -- an arm -- I see this young lady in the jeans jacket on the end.  Stand up, tell me your name.

Q    Do you enjoy planting in your garden?

MRS. OBAMA:  Her question was do I enjoy planting in my garden.  Yes, because, you know, one of the things we do when we plant, we always invite students from the area who come and help.  We just planted the garden a couple of weeks ago, and we had students from three or four schools in the area, and a few kids from schools outside of the area.  And because we had so many great kids we got it done -- we got all the garden planted, like, within an hour.  And it was really fun to spend time out in the sun and talk to the kids and learn -- many of the kids came from schools that had their own gardens.

So that’s really fun for me, to be able to do that.  And when we harvest, we invite a lot of those kids back, and then they help us -- they get to see the garden -- what it was when they planted it, and how beautiful and lush it gets when everything is growing.  And we actually cook from the garden out on the South Lawn.  We make veggie pizzas and the kids get to eat the vegetables.

So it’s really a lot of fun.  Thanks, sweetie.  Thanks for the question.

Q    My name is Matthew (ph) and I was wondering, who takes care of the dogs when you’re busy?

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, that’s a great question.  We’ve got one of our best staff people, one of my favorite people, Dale.  He is the primary keeper of the dogs, and he’s one of the head gardeners, one of the head people who handles the grounds out here.  So he’s responsible for more than just Sunny and Bo.

But Dale picks them up every morning at 7:30 or so, and they go off to work.  And they’re very excited about their day.  They walk all over the White House.  They’re in the West Wing; they’re in the East Wing.  When we first got Bo, people used to give him snacks, so he was getting a little chunky.  So I had to tell people, stop feeding him; you can give him toys.  And, fortunately, everyone around the White House is listening now, so they only get toy treats.  They don’t get food treats.

But they’re with Dale until about 1:00, and then they come home, and they’re very tired.  They’re home by the time we get home and the girls get home.  So it’s good because they spend the day out in the sun, they’re walking around, they’re meeting people.  They’re our best ambassadors.

So Dale is the person who’s right on the case with the dogs.  Great question.

Q    My name is Aliyah (ph), and I wonder, what is your favorite drink?

MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite --

Q    Drink.

MRS. OBAMA:  Drink?  The truth is my favorite drink is seltzer water with lime.  I’m sorry, I wish I could be more interesting.  But that’s what I drink most of the time, because I like to -- it’s a good way to get water -- as a little shameless plug, Drink Up.  We’re trying to encourage people, especially young people, to drink more water, because water is like the best thing you can have.

And sometimes plain water is not as much fun, but if you get seltzer water it’s kind of bubbly, and if you put lemons in it, it almost tastes like a little treat.  So I drink that a lot.

Q    Hi.  My name is Lauren (ph.)  And what’s your favorite place to travel to?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, that’s a great question.  My favorite place to travel -- that’s hard to say, because we’ve been to so many great places.  Rome is a beautiful city, and that trip was really special because we got to meet the Pope.  The food is really good.  We just came back from China, which was incredibly interesting.  The culture and the country is so very different from ours, so it was really good to be in a place where I didn’t -- where it didn’t feel anything like this country.  It was incredibly different.  So we just did that trip.

But I also like to travel a lot to places right here in the United States.  I mean, we go to Hawaii every year; Hawaii is a beautiful state, and the weather is really good and the beaches are great.  But it’s also been fun getting to visit a lot of the national parks that are right here in the United States.  So we went to the Grand Canyon, and we’ve been to great national parks in Maine.  And there are really interesting national parks sites right here in the area that we try to take our girls to.

So I love to travel.  That’s one of the things I hope to do more of while -- the last few years while we’re here in the White House, and hopefully take the girls to some more interesting places and expose them to a little bit more.

What’s your name?

Q    Jude (ph.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Jude?  Got it.  I thought you said “you.”  I was like, no, you.  (Laughter.)  And you said “Jude.”  That was kind of funny, huh?  (Laughter.)  Okay, Jude, what’s your question?

Q    What is your favorite thing to eat?

MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite thing to eat.  Okay, so I’m going to give you my favorite healthy thing to eat, which actually is my favorite thing to eat:  Pizza.  Yes.  But usually when I have pizza -- all right, don’t get mad at me -- I do veggie pizzas.


MRS. OBAMA:  Hey, hey, hey, I’m just saying, I like them.  It’s really good.  And they make great pizza here at the White House, so that’s a way that I get the favorite food that I love but also do it in a healthy way so that I can eat it whenever I want to.

But if I’m really being bad, if I want my favorite junk food -- some kids asked me this just the other day -- one of my favorite, favorite junk foods are French fries.  I love French fries.  French fries -- with hot sauce you said?

Q    Yeah.

MRS. OBAMA:  With hot sauce.  Yeah, I don’t know if I’d do -- what’s this over here?  We’re getting a lot of feedback from -- the junk food.  Okay, got it. 

Q    Ni hao, Mrs. Obama.  Just like saying that because I take Mandarin at school.

MRS. OBAMA:  Ni hao.

Q    So what was your favorite thing in China?  Like what was your favorite thing to do?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, when we were in Beijing we had the best weather there.  And the sun was out, and when -- we went to the Great Wall of China, which was an amazing sight to see, a wall that just goes on forever and ever and ever.  It took a long time to build and millions of people to help build it.

So it’s one of the great wonders of the world, so it was fascinating to see it.  And I enjoyed that time because I was there with my daughters, and we got a moment alone on the Great Wall where we just sort of looked over the landscape and we took it all in.  And then the fun part of the Great Wall is that they’ve got this toboggan ride you can ride down on to get down from the top of the Great Wall.  And there are these little carts, and you pull them and you go down -- it’s almost like a rollercoaster but it’s not so fast, and it winds its way down.  And we took that down, and that was a lot of fun.

Have you ever been to China?

Q    (Inaudibile.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Excellent.  It’s going to be a great trip.  You know where you’re going to go?  Are you going to go to Beijing or Shanghai?

Q    (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Excellent.  Well, zàijiàn.

Q    My name is Josh (ph.)  And if you could go anywhere, where would you go?

MRS. OBAMA:  If I could go anywhere, where would I go.  Oh, gosh, that’s so hard.  There are so many great places to go, I have to pick one?

CHILD:  Yeah.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Where do you guys think?  Where would you want to go?  Help me out with this.  All right, one at a time.  First, Josh (ph), where would you want to go?

Q    Japan.

MRS. OBAMA:  Japan.  The President is in Japan as we speak.

CHILD:  Paris.

MRS. OBAMA:  Paris, I’ve been to Paris.  It’s beautiful.  Where else?  Greece, did I hear Greece?  I would love to go to Greece.

CHILD:  I lived in Greece -- I lived there for three years.

MRS. OBAMA:  You lived in Greece for three years?  That’s awesome.  There’s so many great places -- where would you go?

CHILD:  Hawaii.

MRS. OBAMA:  Hawaii is cool.

CHILD:  Australia.

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s one -- that’s on my bucket list, Australia, New Zealand.  What about you, sweetie?

CHILD:  Florida.

MRS. OBAMA:  Florida!  (Laughter.)  We just went to Florida.  We went to Florida for a few days, we had fun.

Q    What made you want to get kids to eat healthier foods?

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s a great question, what made me want to get kids to eat healthier food.  It was really what I -- the challenges that I had as a mom.  Before I came to the White House, I was like most of your parents -- I worked, the President worked, so we were really busy.  And cooking at home was hard to do, so we would take the shortcuts -- we’d go out, we’d do drive-thru, we’d do a lot of microwaving and the things that you do when you’re busy and you’re just trying to feed -- and my kids were like you.  They didn’t like vegetables, they always complained about dinner so we were always trying to find something that they liked and it was usually not healthy for them.

Because all the stuff you guys like -- you like French fries and chicken nuggets and all that kind of stuff.

CHILD:  Wings.

MRS. OBAMA:  Wings.  And some of that stuff is --

CHILD:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  The best invention ever made -- man ever made is chicken nuggets.  And there’s nothing wrong with chicken nuggets, it’s just that if you eat the same thing every day, if you eat fast food every day, what I found was that it wasn’t so good for my kids’ health.  And after a while -- I don’t know -- a lot of kids don’t get to the point where it doesn’t taste good, but I like your spirit.  (Laughter.)

But my kids weren’t as healthy.  And our pediatrician said, you’ve got to really watch what they eat.  And I didn’t know that what I was doing wasn’t good for them, so I started doing some research and started working to figure out, well, how do I clean up our kids’ diet and do it in a way that I can manage it.  And I started eliminating like all the processed food.  We started adding more vegetables.  I made sure my kids had more fruit.  We got rid of a lot of sugary drinks.  I made sure that they were getting active.

And in a few months, when we went back to the doctor, the doctor was like, what did you do?  This is amazing.  Whatever health outcomes he was seeing had changed over the course of a few months with just a few changes.  And I thought, well, if I’m going through this, what’s going on in all the households over the country and all over the world where parents aren’t being told this kind of stuff?

And that’s one of the reasons why we have a huge childhood obesity epidemic.  And what happens is like, if we don’t help you guys start out at a young age learning how to eat properly and get exercise, the problems that you will have for the rest of your life are really tough.  And I didn’t want that for my kids, and I certainly don’t want that for any kids in this country.

So I thought, when I get here, maybe I can do more to raise the awareness.  And we started with planting a garden.  And I wanted to find a way to make healthy eating and exercise not a chore, but fun.  That’s one of the things I’ve been asking grocery store manufacturers to do.  It’s like, find a way to make the healthy stuff fun.  Make it taste good.  Make the school lunches better, and make them taste good.  Put good foods in there.  Let’s work on making healthy fun.

And that’s what we’re doing with Let’s Move.  We’re trying to make it cool to eat vegetables.  Because once you start eating vegetables, then they start to taste better.  If you never eat vegetables, then they’re too bitter, you don’t like them.  If you never try vegetables, then you’ll never want them.  And you just can’t live -- as I tell my kids -- you can’t -- if you could live on ice cream and pizza, I tell my kids, it would be so easy to give you that because that would make them happy.  But I can’t do that as a responsible parent.  It would be irresponsible of me to let my kids eat ice cream every day.

So we’ve got to toughen up as parents and help you guys do what’s right for you.  And then, as you grow up, you’ll do the right things for yourself because you’ll have better habits.  That’s a long story, but it’s an important issue to me.  But thank you for the question, sweetie.  Eat your vegetables!  (Laughter.)

Q    What’s your favorite food?

MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite food?  Remember I said pizza?  Remember that one?

Q    Yeah.

MRS. OBAMA:  You want another question?

Q    What’s your favorite color?  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I like purple.  Yay!

Q    My mom likes that.

MRS. OBAMA:  What was that?

Q    My mom likes it, too.

MRS. OBAMA:  Tell her -- we’re right here.  Tell her we’re sisters in colorhood.  (Laughter.)

Q    Okay.

Q    My dad’s been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his resume.

MRS. OBAMA:  You are so sweet.  Oh, my goodness.  Good job.  I will take it.  Well, it’s a little private, but she’s doing something for her dad.  Got it.

Q    My name is Thomas Cuddy (ph), and my question is, do you miss your old job?

MRS. OBAMA:  Do I miss my old job.  I don’t know if I miss the job -- sorry to the folks I used to work with, love you guys -- but I think this is a pretty cool job.  But sometimes I miss, like, a normal life.

CHILD:  Without security guards.

MRS. OBAMA:  Without security guards.

CHILD:  Without policemen --

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes.  So sometimes I miss being able to walk out the front door and go wherever I want to whenever I want to.  Sometimes I miss walking around where nobody even cares whether you’re there.  So sometimes me and the President, we dream about sneaking out of the White House and going to have ice cream, and nobody really knowing who we are.

But the truth is, I have a really cool job.  I mean, I get to have an effect on issues that really matter.  And there are few jobs in the world that I can say I could ever do that.  So with all of the tough stuff that comes with living in the White House or whatever, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  So this is kind of a pretty neat job.

Q    Hi, my name is Jasmine (ph.)  When you first came here, did you ever get lost in the White House? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, yes.  There were a first few days -- you know how we enter the White House?  You don’t get to come to the White House until you are living in the White House, so it’s not like a regular house where you get to move in a couple of days, and then you visit back and forth.  We came here once.

And then, on Inauguration Day, when you’ve got a parade and balls and all of that, that’s the first time, after a long day of parades, that you get to walk into this house.  And all your stuff is here and unpacked, but you’ve never seen it before.  You don’t even know where your kids are.  (Laughter.)  We couldn’t find our children.  I didn’t know where the bathroom was.  And there are all these doors, and they were all closed, and I was going in and out of doors and they weren’t rooms, they were closets.  But we had to rush to get ready for the ball, and I didn’t know where anything was.

It was really pretty strange.  But the White House is very simply laid out.  It seems really big, but the layout is fairly simple.  And once you know what’s behind every door -- and there are a lot of secret doors, too.  There are doors that lead to other rooms and doors that lead to little rooms.  And once you figure all those out, then you just don’t go in those doors.  (Laughter.)

But it doesn’t take long to get used to it.  You would get used to it.  You wouldn’t get lost in the White House if you lived here for a couple of weeks.

What’s your name?

Q    I’m Jet, J-E-T.

MRS. OBAMA:  Jet, got it.

Q    My question is, is it -- do you like living and working in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA:  I do.  I mean, I feel like this is a great honor to be the caretakers of what we call the “People’s House.”  Because we’re just living here for a few years.  This house belongs to America.  And it’s really a nice responsibility to take care of it and make sure that as many people around the country and around the world have access to it.  So we love holding events and doing things like this, where you guys get to come in and sit in the East Room and ask questions.  We just had the Easter Egg Roll.  How many people got to come to the Easter Egg Roll?  That was pretty cool, huh?

So stuff like that is really pretty neat.  So it’s a very great honor, and we take our responsibility very seriously.

Okay, I got the signal that I have time for one more question.

Q    My name is Torrin (ph.)  What do you like -- being the First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA:  I like spending time with kids like you guys.  I really do.  My best days are when I’m with kids like you.  Because I think that I have so much hope for you guys, and I want you guys to have all the opportunities that you deserve to be really great adults.

And I know your parents love you.  It’s hard not to love great kids like you guys.  So it’s easy for me to hang out with you guys, because you all are smart.  And I know you’re kind, and you’re decent young people.  And who wouldn’t want to hang out with you guys?

So if I could, I’d spend the rest of the day with you, but I can’t, and I’m getting the angry look from my staff at the back because I have to go to a meeting.  (Laughter.)  But I hope you guys had a great time.

11:35 A.M. EDT

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