First Lady Michelle Obama

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First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and the wife of the 44th and current President, Barack Obama. She is the first African-American First Lady of the United States. Through her four main initiatives, she has become a role model for women and an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls education.

The People's House

"It’s a place that is steeped in history, but it’s also a place where everyone should feel welcome."

–Michelle Obama

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When people ask First Lady Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate to say that first and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

But before she was a mother — or a wife, lawyer, or public servant — she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter. The Robinsons lived in a brick bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. Fraser was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department, and despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a young age, he hardly ever missed a day of work. Marian stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother Craig, skillfully managing a busy household filled with love, laughter, and important life lessons.

A product of Chicago public schools, Michelle Robinson studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1988, she joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she later met Barack Obama, the man who would become the love of her life.

After a few years, Mrs. Obama decided her true calling was working with people to serve their communities and their neighbors. She served as assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago's City Hall before becoming the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares youth for public service.

In 1996, Mrs. Obama joined the University of Chicago with a vision of bringing campus and community together. As Associate Dean of Student Services, she developed the university's first community service program, and under her leadership as Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, volunteerism skyrocketed.

Mrs. Obama has continued her efforts to support and inspire young people during her time as First Lady.

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Let's Move!

Mrs. Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden—the first major vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in 1943—and invited students from across the country to plant and harvest it each year. It has become a national symbol for growing healthy food and teaching kids about where their food comes from and the benefits of healthy eating.

In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of our country. That conversation led to Let's Move!, an initiative Mrs. Obama launched in 2010 dedicated to helping kids and families lead healthier lives.

At the start of Let's Move!, President Obama established the first-ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop a national action plan to mobilize the public and private sectors and engage families and communities in an effort to improve the health of our children. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years; giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices; providing healthier foods in our schools; ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food; and helping children become more physically active.

Everyone has a role to play to ensure all of our kids grow up healthy, and through lasting policy, programs, and public-private partnerships, Let’s Move! has enabled impactful progress.

America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids

Improved the Healthy Food Landscape

  • Transformed the school food environment through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which updated school meal nutrition standards for the first time in 15 years and increased funding for the first time in 30 years. Through this law, American public schools offer healthier school meals and snacks for over 50 million kids. In addition, it increased the number of students who could get school meals at little or no cost, and ensured that any food or beverage marketed to children at school meets specific nutrition standards. The nutrition of meals and snacks served at child care was also improved, emphasizing more whole grains, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and less added sugars and saturated fat.
  • Announced the Food and Drug Administration’s modernized Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods reflecting the latest science, the most relevant nutrition information, and a refreshed design in an effort to provide families with the information they need to make healthy choices.
  • Launched the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate and MiPlato, easy to understand icons based on the five food groups, to help Americans make healthier choices.
  • Increased access to fruits and vegetables through Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools, providing 3 million students with a salad bar. This effort is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was founded by the Chef Ann Foundation, National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, United Fresh Start Foundation, and Whole Foods Market.

Increased Opportunities for Physical Activity

  • Started Let's Move! Active Schools so kids could attend schools that strive to make 60 minutes of physical activity a day the norm. Reaching over 12 million kids, this program equips schools with a customized action plan to create active learning environments. It is led by the Partnership for a Healthier America and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Partnered with the U.S. Olympic Committee and several of its national governing bodies to provide beginner athletic programming for free or low cost to more than 1.7 million kids in 2012 and nearly 2 million kids in 2016 in support of Team USA and the Olympic Games.
  • Updated the President’s Challenge Youth Fitness Test to reflect the latest science on kids’ health and promote active, healthy lifestyles rather than athletic performance and competition. Also expanded the mission of the President’s Council on Fitness and Sports to include nutrition, changing the Council’s name to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and increasing the number of Council members from 20 to 25.
  • Created Let’s Move! Outside in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Interior to encourage kids and families to take advantage of America’s great outdoors. As part of President Obama’s commitment to ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit our nation’s more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters, the Every Kid in a Park initiative allows fourth graders nationwide to obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families.

Supported Healthier Lifestyles

  • Championed over 225 corporate commitments and partnerships with First Lady Michelle Obama as the honorary chair of the Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit helping the private sector make the healthy choice the easy choice. These commitments and partnerships showcase how the private sector can be an active part of the solution in supporting a healthy food system and society with increased availability of healthier products.
  • Leveraged the power of marketing through three signature campaigns to encourage Americans to consume more fruits and vegetables and drink water. Together Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association promote kids’ fruit and vegetable consumption through eat brighter!. The Drink Up campaign is an unprecedented collaboration of companies promoting water, resulting in increased sales and consumption of water each year since its launch. Establishing one iconic brand for fruits and vegetables, FNV harnesses the power of celebrities to deliver a healthy dose of advertising. These efforts are in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America.
  • Created Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties to assist local elected officials in building healthier communities across the country. Over 81 million people – or 1 in 4 Americans – have benefited thanks to the more than 520 local elected officials that have committed to the program. This effort is a partnership between the National League of Cities and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Launched Let’s Move! Child Care to ensure that our youngest children are getting a healthy start. Over 1.6 million kids attend a child care site where the provider has committed to improving the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served, increasing opportunities for physical activity, and limiting screen time. This effort is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Nemours.
  • Created the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and hosted five annual Kids’ “State Dinners” to promote cooking and healthy eating, where altogether over 6,000 recipes were submitted and more than 270 young chefs and their families were welcomed to the White House. The challenge invited kids ages 8-12 to create original, healthy, affordable, and delicious a lunch recipe.

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Joining Forces

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden participate in a round table discussion with veterans and their spouses at the Department of Veterans Affairs Vet Center, Silver Spring, Maryland, April 17, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling on all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families, supporting them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.

Joining Forces worked hand-in-hand with the public and private sectors ensuring that service members, veterans, and their families have the resources and support they need to succeed throughout their lives.

By bringing attention to the unique experiences and strengths of America’s service members, veterans, and their families, Joining Forces helped to inspire, educate, and spark action from all sectors of society to create greater connections between the American public and the military community.

Support for our Service Members, Veterans, and their Families


  • Employers hired or trained over 1.2 million veterans and military spouses.
  • Over 90,000 military spouses hired through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a network that now includes over 300 companies.
  • All 50 States enacted legislation removing credentialing impediments for separating service members and streamlining license portability for military spouses.


  • Colleges and universities across the country signed on to “Educate the Educators,” a Joining Forces commitment preparing educators to lead classrooms and develop cultures that are more responsive to the social, emotional, and academic needs of military-connected children.
  • The National Math and Science Initiative’s (NMSI) College Readiness Program expanded to 200 military-connected schools, providing over 50,000 military-connected students with the support and educational opportunities they deserve.
  • All 50 States signed on to the Military Child Education Compact to support military connected K-12 students.


  • In March 2015, the First Lady launched the Campaign to Change Direction, a nationwide mental health public-awareness campaign promoting education and awareness of mental health issues. Since its launch, organizations committed to teaching the “5 Signs” to more than 145 million people.
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges and Joining Forces produced Joining Forces Wellness Week, a week-long series of interactive trainings for clinical and non-clinical wellness professionals focused on specific health and wellness issues of veterans, service members, and their families.
  • In June 2014, the First Lady announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Since the announcement, mayors, governors, and city officials from across America publicly committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities.

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Reach Higher

First Lady Michelle Obama greets students at the City College of New York graduation on June 3, 2016.

In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Reach Higher initiative, an effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.

In today's economy, a high school diploma just isn't enough, which is why the First Lady is working to rally the country around ensuring that the United States once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Reach Higher aims to ensure all students understand what they need to complete their education, including: exposing students to college and career opportunities; understanding financial aid and college affordability; encouraging academic planning and summer learning opportunities; and supporting high school counselors who can help more kids get to and through a post-secondary institution.

Helping More Students Reach Higher for College and Beyond

College Opportunity Summits

In two separate summits in January and December of 2014, President Obama and the First Lady put out calls to action to college presidents, foundations, school district leaders, and college access professionals, culminating in over 700 commitments from these institutions to increase post-secondary success, especially for our most vulnerable students. Through the President and First Lady’s Call-to-Action on College Opportunity, hundreds of schools, organizations, and counselors have reported that they have already helped students access more than $5 billion in financial aid, enrolling 1 million more students in college, and setting 10 million more students on track to complete on time within the decade.

National College Signing Day

The First Lady, understanding the importance of celebrating education, decided to elevate College Signing Day to the national stage as a way to recognize high school seniors making the commitment to go to college. When she first participated, there were a few dozen such events around the country, but thanks to the First Lady and her Reach Higher initiative, in just two years, there were over 1,200 College Signing Day celebrations happening in all fifty states, with celebrities, athletes, actors, musicians, and influencers of all kinds taking to social media to post pictures in their college gear to celebrate students and promote a college-going culture.

Beating the Odds Summit

As a first-generation college graduate herself, the First Lady has a deep and personal understanding of the struggles that first-generation students, or students from non-typical backgrounds, experience when they arrive to college. Today more than ever, more first-generation students are completing high school and going on to some sort of college education. However, too many of them are still struggling when they get on campus to acclimate and find the tools to be successful. That is why the First Lady brought hundreds of rising college freshmen from around the country to the White House for the past three summers, each with extraordinary stories of overcoming adversity in order to complete high school and get to college. These summits celebrated the students and their journeys, while also introducing them to coaching, support, and tools be successful after arriving on campus.

Lifting Up and Supporting School Counselors

The First Lady made supporting school counselors one of the key pillars of Reach Higher because she knows the important role they play in student success. Reach Higher has tried to elevate and support the counseling profession by: bringing the Counselor of the Year ceremony to the White House for a yearly tradition; inviting foundations and thought leaders to improve research, preparation, and technology for counselors; and convening teams of educational leaders from nearly 40 states at national Counseling Summits to implement best practices around college and career-readiness for counselors and school districts.

Launching “Better Make Room,” a Generation Z Social Media Campaign to reach students

In October of 2015, the First Lady launched her “Better Make Room” campaign. This campaign is working to reach students where they are on social media and mobile devices, but give them a place to celebrate education and get connected to important resources that will help them get to and through college. Since launching, Mrs. Obama has rapped with comedian Jay Pharaoh about going to college, talked with LeBron James about why he’s so invested in education, hung out with Viners to talk about school, and asked students to text “College” to 44044 to get updates on their phones about filling out federal financial aid and getting other student success tips.

Better Tools to Make College Choices

The First Lady has helped students and families make better decisions about making the right college decision by pointing them to the administration launch of the College Scorecard to find a good-value school where they can pursue their educational and career goals while others in the public—policymakers, schools, parents, teachers, researchers—can use the data to help support colleges in improving their performance and serving students better. In addition, the First Lady secured commitments from Google to make over 100 college and career tours available through Google Expeditions, so that students and teachers can virtually visit campuses and examine careers.

Improved Financial Aid Timing and Resources

The First Lady has helped ensure that more students understand the importance of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), giving students access to over $180 billion available annually in Federal financial aid and millions more in state, institutional, and private scholarships. And as of October 1, 2016, the Administration made the FAFSA application available three months early. The First Lady held a FAFSA video challenge, spoke to daytime TV personalities, and helped launch a text messaging tool, UpNext, in order to help more students access these critical federal.

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Let Girls Learn

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a roundtable discussion with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , Freida Pinto and students, in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative, at R.S. Caulfield Senior High School in Unification Town, Liberia, June 27, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

In March 2015, the President and the First Lady launched Let Girls Learn, an initiative which brings together the Department of State, US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as other agencies and programs such as the US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential.

Building on existing U.S. government efforts and expertise, Let Girls Learn elevates current programs and invests in new ones to expand education opportunities for girls—including in areas of conflict and crisis.

Transforming Girls’ Lives Around the World

General Awareness

  • Domestically, the First Lady has galvanized students to become global citizens, from launching the #62MillionGirls social media campaign in September 2015, to releasing the Let Girls Learn toolkit at the 2015 Girl Up Summit, to launching the campaign with at SXSW in Austin in March 2016. The social media campaign had almost 2 billion social impressions, and trended #1 domestically and #3 worldwide.
  • Traveled abroad to numerous countries, including Liberia, Morocco, Spain, Cuba, Cambodia, Japan and Pakistan to meet with young girls and to hear their stories, as well as to raise global awareness about the numerous barriers adolescent girls face in going to school and staying in school.

Community Based Solutions

  • Successfully launched an effort in 36 countries to increase community-generated solutions to address adolescent girls’ education. In support of the initiative, the Peace Corps has provided enhanced training to over 800 Peace Corps volunteers. Also supported the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund which provides funding for community generated projects to support girls’ education in various countries.

Public-Private Partnerships

  • Leveraged public-private partnerships to challenge others to commit resources to improve the lives of adolescent girls worldwide. The initiative has established innovative partnerships with 78 private sector partners, including IBM, PayPal, Johnson & Johnson, Girl Scouts of America, PBS Learning Media, Girl Up, Lands’ End, IBM, Barneys, UPS, Xerox and General Motors.

USG Assistance and Diplomatic Engagement

  • The FY 2017 President’s Budget requested more than $100 million in new funds for Let Girls Learn, building on the $250 million in new and reoriented prior year funds requested in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to launch the initiative.
  • In coordination with the Government of Pakistan, Let Girls Learn joined forces with USAID to provide $70 million to USAID programs that benefit more than 200,000 adolescent girls aged 10-19.
  • At the 2016 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group, President Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank Group would invest $2.5 billion over the next five years in education projects that directly benefit adolescent girls.
  • USAID established the Let Girls Learn Challenge Fund in Malawi and Tanzania to convene the global community to design new, holistic programs that advance girls education and help girls succeed in school.
  • Foreign governments, including Japan, South Korea and the UK have collectively pledged nearly $600 million towards global girls’ education.

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