The President and First Lady at the 2014 Kids' State Dinner

July 18, 2014 | 18:40 | Public Domain

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama deliver remarks at the 2014 Kids' State Dinner in the East Room of the White House.

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Remarks by the President and the First Lady at the Kids State Dinner

East Room

12:17 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Okay, Braeden.  (Laughter.)  All right, it’s going to be hard.  All right, mister, you’re not supposed to make the First Lady cry.  (Laughter.) 

Thanks so much.  You guys, let’s give Braeden a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Well done, young man.  Well done.  And thank you so much, Christy.  Thank you. 

Okay, this is cool, right?  You guys having a good time? 


MRS. OBAMA:  Yes?  Has it been exciting from beginning to end?


MRS. OBAMA:  What’s been the best part so far?


MRS. OBAMA:  This?  All right, I didn't cue them on that one.  (Laughter.)  That was a natural response. 

Well, I am just delighted to have you guys.  You guys look amazing.  You have dressed so appropriately for the event.  Doesn't the room look beautiful?  They do such a great job.  And all this stuff was picked out especially for you guys.  It is really an honor to be here.

And I want to start by thanking Tanya and all the folks from Epicurious, the entire team, for, year after year, making this event possible.  It is truly the highlight of our lives, and I know that everyone involved really, really gets inspired from this event. 

And I’m also thrilled about the new Kids and Chefs Cook for Success program that you guys are launching.  And with this effort, you guys are going to take this whole thing to another level.  So I love the fact that, Epicurious, you’re finding ways to step this up every single year.  So thank you, guys, and a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

And, of course, to our Delta Airlines team for flying everybody here.  Oh, let’s all go!  Yay!  (Applause.)

How many people was it your first trip on an airplane?  Or is everybody old flying pros?  You’ve been flown before, huh?  You haven’t flown before?  Well, that's awesome.  So did Delta Airlines treat you well?

AUDIENCE:  Yes.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  All right, there you go.  Bob was a little nervous on that question.  (Laughter.) 

And I want to join Tanya in also thanking all of the family members, the parents, the moms, the dads.  I know we have an aunt or two here, as well.  Thank you all so much for supporting your kids in this passion, and for cooking with them and for putting up with those endless messes in the kitchen.  Who’s a messy cook here?  (Laughter.)  Me, too.  Me, too.  (Laughter.)

But I hope you all know that their success is because of your love and your constant encouragement for their creativity.  So we’re just so grateful to all of you grownups who are here with us today, and I hope you’re having a good time, too.

But, of course, most of all, I want to recognize our guest of honor, our 54 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners!  (Applause.)  Congratulations.  (Applause.)  Yes, whoop it up.  Party in the White House.  It’s exciting.  I am so proud of you. The President is so proud of you.  Oh, look at the room out there.  I missed the balloons.  (Laughter.)  We have been working so hard to make this event special for you.

But these kids have been selected.  There were more than 1,500 kids that submitted their recipes for this year’s challenge, and it was not easy to choose just one winner from each state, so this was a competitive experience.  You had to claw your way to the finish line.  (Laughter.)  I hope you didn't push and shove anyone on the way up to the top.  But you made it. But you’re all here because a panel of distinguished judges agreed that your recipes were the very best.

And I want to thank all the judges.  Sam was one of those judges.  (Applause.)  There’s a lot of eating.  Did you taste all 1,500 recipes?

MR. KASS:  110 dishes.

MRS. OBAMA:  110 dishes. 

MR. KASS:  That's a lot. 

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, Sam.  (Laughter.)  Well done.

But yours were the most nutritious and the most delicious, all right?  So healthy and good, too, right?  And you guys took very different paths to get here.  Some of you started cooking as a way to bond with your families -- and that was true for Genene Wedd.  Hey, Genene, how are you?  From California.  He said, “I love cooking with my mom.  It is fun spending time with her and talking about my day.”

And for some of you, cooking is how you celebrate your culture or other cultures you’re interested in.  Lucy Hickerson  -- where’s Lucy?  I know I saw Lucy.  Where are you, Lucy?  Lucy is from Kentucky, and she made a pocket with sweet potatoes and kale.  And she describes her dish as a combination of an Indian samosa, a Spanish empanada and an Asian spring roll.  And what Lucy says, “It’s like going around the world in one bite.”  (Laughter.)

And some of you like to cook because you’re good at it and hope to make it a career.  That’s why Hannah Foley from Pennsylvania right here -– as she said -- she said, “I love to cook and hope to one day be a chef with my own show on the Food Network.”  (Laughter.)  Wait, she’s got a title.  (Laughter.)  It’s called, “H to the F to the Hannah Foley Chef.”   (Laughter.) Yes, that's been in my head for many days.  (Laughter.)  That's why I knew it.  H to the F -- okay. 

But no matter how you got to the White House today, you’re all here for one simple reason.  And I think Adrianna Nelson from West Virginia -- Adrianna, where are you?  Hi, you.  This is what she said.  She said, “I love to create healthy recipes because I feel great when I eat healthy.”  That's why you’re here.  Like Adrianna, you all know that what you eat affects how you feel, and how much energy you have, and how well you do at school.

And that’s really why I started Let's Move.  I did it because I care deeply about the kids in this country.  I really do.  Not just as First Lady, but I’m a mom, I’ve got two kids.  I love them, and I love you all just as much.  So it’s important for me to make sure that the things I do for my girls are the same things that every kid in this country has access to.   

And that’s why we’ve been working so hard to help families cook healthy meals at home, and to get more grocery stores into our communities, and to get companies to market healthier foods to kids. 

And most of all, that’s why we’ve been fighting so hard for our new healthy school lunches.  And I have to tell you, and I said this to some of you in the photo line that you all are my inspiration.  Kids like you really do inspire me.  You all represent 54 reasons why we know that we can do so much better by our kids when it comes to eating healthy because the truth is, is that if 8-, 9- and 10-year-old kids can cook and happily eat a healthy, tasty meal, then there is absolutely no reason why we can’t get nutritious food into every school in this country that kids will actually enjoy.  You guys remind me of that every single day.

Now, I know that some of you might have friends who want to bring back the junk food in the schools, right?  Because there’s always those kids.  They're like, give me my junk food back.  (Laughter.)  And I know that in recent months, we’ve even seen grownups, including folks in Congress, trying to undo some of the progress that we’ve made to get healthier food into our schools. And while the vast majority of the schools are doing just fine with these new standards, those few complaining voices happen to be the loudest voices and they’re getting the most attention right now.

So here’s what I’m going to ask you to do for this year.  I need you guys to make your voices heard, too.  It’s important.  And don’t be shy.  I want you to speak up, talk to your classmates and your teachers.  Share with them what you’ve learned about healthy eating and cooking, about how to craft interesting things.  Like, Braeden, you might even get your school to test your recipe in the lunchroom for other kids.  Teach them what you know about healthy eating.

And also, to the parents, parents play a really important role in what happens on the ground.  And in many instances, parents are way more powerful than people like us in the White House.  So I urge you guys to speak up as well, and to continue speaking up.  Go to those PTA meetings and those school board meetings and tell them what you know and what you’re learning, to make sure that they're listening to all the voices on this issue.

There’s a lot of money involved in feeding our kids at school.  We are currently spending $10 billion a year -- did you hear that, $10 billion a year -- on our school lunch programs.  So it’s not surprising that there are certain interests that are resisting change and trying to take us back to the old ways of doing business, because for them there’s a lot of money is on the line.  But you all have a right to expect that your hard-earned tax dollars will be spent on food that meets basic nutrition standards. 

It’s as simple as that.  Because when you are working so hard to prepare nutritious foods at home, I know that you don’t want all that work undone when you send your kids off to school and they’re eating in the lunchroom.  So we can’t afford to stay silent on this issue, because if we do we’re going to wind up right back where we started.  And that’s not acceptable.  Because I know that everyone in this room, at least, and many people around the country know that the food our kids are eating today will affect their health for decades.  We are laying an imprint on our kids with everything they put into their bodies today.  We know so much more about how nutrition and exercise impacts our children’s ability to focus and succeed both in school and in life.

And that’s why you guys, as parents, are so passionately supporting your kids on this issue -- you know that this is real, this isn’t a joke.  So what I don’t want to have happen is that 20 years from now I don’t want us to be looking back and saying to ourselves, man, we were almost there, we were right on the brink of transforming our kids’ health, but then things got tough and expensive, and then we didn’t stand up and we didn’t speak up, and we gave up too soon. 

Our kids deserve better than that.  And they don’t know, but we know -- we know better.  All of you kids, like kids across this country, deserve everything that we adults can muster up for you.  I have to tell my kids that every day -- I still know more than they do.  (Laughter.)  So when we know better, we have to do better for you.

So I hope that you all will serve as ambassadors, okay?  And think about, as Braeden did, how you will pay this forward.  And there are many, many ways you’re going to pay it forward.  There’s no one right answer on how you’re going to do it.  But when you get a chance to do something this special and to come to the White House, and have all this press and all these special things going on, I know for me when I think about my advantages, I think, I have to give that back to somebody else.  That is my obligation.  That’s the price I pay for standing here and hanging out. 

So I want you to think about what you’re going to do.  I want you to keep talking to other kids about eating healthy.  Help them learn.  Help them try new things.  And you’re going to run into bumps and bruises -- I know, Braeden, it must have been hard work starting your new non-profit organization.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy every step of the way, but it was so worth it, right, for the thanks that you get and knowing that you impact the lives of others. 

So I know each of you can do that in your own special way. And we’re going to do this again next year, so I hope that one of you will be standing here like Braeden, being able to share all the great things that you’ve done over the course of the year.  I can’t wait to see what you guys accomplish.  You all are pretty amazing young people. 

So I think with that, it’s time to eat, don’t you think?  I’m a little hungry.  I just had fruit for breakfast so I’m really ready to try all these dishes.  (Applause.)  You guys, have a great time.  And I will see you after lunch.  Enjoy.  (Applause.)

Wait, wait.  We have a special guest -- Braeden knew about this -- but another person who likes this event just as much as me, who never gets invited to sit down is the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  I am not going to hold up the meal -- everybody sit down.  (Laughter.)  I just wanted to come by because I love the event.  First of all, we have a lot of state dinners around here.

MRS. OBAMA:  We do.

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re not always as cheerful and fun as this.  (Laughter.)  First of all, everybody is older and a little stodgier.  But this is a much hipper crowd.  More colorful outfits -- so I like that.  But I also just love seeing young people who are doing wonderful things.  We are so proud of you.  To see the kind of leadership you’re taking and the way that you’ve really thrown yourselves into these projects is just really inspiring. 

And sometimes people ask me, you know, Mr. President, you have this really tough job and there is always stuff happening all around the world, and how do you keep up with all of it and how do you keep your spirits up?  And my answer is, because I meet young people every day who I know are energetic and are full of great ideas and are going to be continuing to make this country better.  This is one way to do it.  You guys are leaders in your schools and in your communities, and you’re helping to teach folks the importance of good nutrition, the importance of putting good fuel in your bodies so that you’re living healthy, active lives.

And by the way, one thing -- maybe I shouldn’t say this, but it’s not like our family -- including me -- don’t have some snacks once in a while -- (laughter) -- that may not be on the perfect nutrition chart.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s true.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Each of us have our weaknesses, so I’m going to reveal some right now.  Malia, ice cream.  I mean, basically, it’s very hard for her to turn down ice cream.  But she has learned to kind of control herself when it comes to ice cream.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s hard.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s hard, but she still has fun when she does have ice cream.  In fact, the fact that she doesn’t have ice cream every day means when she has it --

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s very special.

THE PRESIDENT: -- it’s like, hallelujah.  She starts -- she is so happy.  (Laughter.)  Sasha -- what would you say is Sasha’s pig-out indulgence food?

MRS. OBAMA:  She likes sushi.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s what she’s into.

THE PRESIDENT:  She is kind of into sushi right now.  She’s a little -- I love sushi, so maybe I had some influence there.  But let’s say -- her pies.  She pretty much takes dessert whenever she can.


THE PRESIDENT:  Pie.  She’s like me.  My big thing -- chips and guacamole.  (Laughter.)  Basically, if there is a bowl of good chips and guacamole --

MRS. OBAMA:  He loses it.

THE PRESIDENT:  -- I lose my mind.  (Laughter.)  I lose my mind.  And the First Lady -- French fries.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  But I’m going to say this.  I’m making a vow -- I’m going to take a break from French fries.



THE PRESIDENT:  Wow, that’s big.  (Laughter and applause.) 

Now, the reason I make this point is that the question is not can you never have anything -- it’s, on a day-to-day basis, at lunches, at breakfast, at dinner, is your basic nutrition something that’s going to make you strong and make you healthy?  And if it is, then having fun food that may not be perfect for you, that’s okay, too. 

But we’re just all trying to develop good habits.  And the one thing I know about all these young people is they’ve got great work habits, because, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to do everything that they’ve done.  They’ve got great habits of caring about other people, because they’re out there spreading the word about what they’re doing.  And as a consequence, I’m really optimistic about what all these great young leaders are going to achieve in the future. 

So good luck.  Have a great Kids State Dinner -- even though it’s technically lunch.  (Laughter.)  Calling it a state lunch -- there was a debate about this and we thought --

MRS. OBAMA:  It doesn’t work.

THE PRESIDENT:  -- it doesn’t make sense, because we have state dinners.  So it’s a Kids State Dinner, even though it’s noon. 

And parents, good job, everybody.  You’ve got great kids.  (Applause.)

12:35 P.M. EDT

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