Remarks by the First Lady at a Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties Announcement
Lenfest Police Athletic League Center
12:28 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Thank you. You all, please, rest yourselves. (Applause.) I guess standing is good for fitness, as well, so -- thank you. (Applause.)
Let me say I am more than delighted to be here with so many outstanding leaders from cities, towns and counties all across America. And I am thrilled to announce these groundbreaking commitments to support the work that you all are doing to build healthy communities for all of our children.
And I want to start by thanking your mayor, Mayor Nutter, not just for that very kind introduction, but for the terrific work that is happening here in Philadelphia. He has just been an amazing, inspiring, energetic leader on behalf of these issues. And I want to thank him for hosting us here today. (Applause.)
And I have to recognize our fantastic Secretary of Health and Human Services -- to Secretary Sebelius, I want to thank her for her friendship and leadership. She's been phenomenal. (Applause.)
And I want to echo the thank-yous for our outstanding partners in this new coalition. The National League of Cities -- I want to thank them for taking the lead and working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and NACO to coordinate these commitments. I want to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their critical contributions.
I also want to thank Blue Cross Blue Shield and Partnership for a Healthier America for supporting new Play Streets where families can walk and play and bike together. And of course, KaBOOM for supporting new playgrounds -- like the one that we're going to unveil here today -- where kids can get around and get the exercise they need to stay healthy.
And I want to ask all these leaders, all the representatives from these organizations to stand, because I think -- I would love to show you all our love and appreciation. Would all the representatives from the partnering organizations please stand so that we can recognize you? (Applause.) Thank you.
More than anything else, these commitments are what Let’s Move Cities, Towns and Counties is all about. It’s about supporting leaders like you who are on the front lines -- our mayors -- working to solve our childhood obesity epidemic so that all of our children in this country can grow up healthy.
In fact, as some of you may remember, one of the very first groups I spoke to about this issue was the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It was back in 2010. And we hadn’t even launched Let's Move yet. But I knew that local leaders were going to be critical partners in this effort, because more than just about anyone else, these leaders know the impact these issues have on their communities.
You all see it in your budgets -- in the tens of millions of dollars in obesity-related health care costs. You see it in your workforce -- because when kids aren’t healthy, they miss more days of school. And that can mean higher absenteeism as parents have to stay home and care for those kids.
And all of that doesn’t just affect the businesses in your communities today. It also affects whether new businesses will come and set up shop in the years ahead, or whether they’ll see high health care costs and lower productivity, and decide to go elsewhere with their business.
But I didn’t just start with leaders like all of our local city officials because I knew that they would understand the problem. I started with them because I knew that our cities, towns and counties would be a key part of the solution to this issue. You see -- and I’ve said this again and again -- there is no one-size-fits all policy or program that can solve this problem. And Washington certainly does not have all the answers on this issue. Instead, many of the best, most innovative, most effective solutions start in our city halls and our towns and our county councils. They start with leaders like all of these men and women on this stage who see people’s struggles up close and who govern where people see it and feel it the most.
And whether it’s the roads people drive on or the schools their children attend, the issues these leaders deal with, as Mayor Nutter said, they are not Democratic or Republican issues. They’re issues that affect every last one of us, no matter what party -- if any -- we belong to.
And the same is true for childhood obesity. This isn't a political issue. It is not a partisan issue. It’s about the future we all want for our children. And that’s why, on that January day two and a half years ago, I asked all of these leaders to be the frontline leaders in our work to reclaim our children’s health.
And since that time, all of these individuals have stepped up and answered that call in ways that we never could have imagined. Mayor Chip Johnson of Hernando, Mississippi, credited his city’s very first Parks Department and -- he created that park -- and he planted a community garden and brought in a farmer’s market as well.
In Avondale, Arizona, under the leadership of Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, they opened an 80,000 square foot soccer, basketball and volleyball facility, and they partnered with school districts and the Boys & Girls Club to start an after-school program where kids can get active.
And Commissioner Larry Johnson of Dekalb County, Georgia, hosted a "DeKalb Day of Play," they hosted a DeKalb Diabetes Awareness bike ride, and an annual four-mile walk called -- and I love this name -- "DeKalb Walks for the Health of it!" Yeah. (Laughter.)
Here in Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter has installed bike lanes, and raised food and fitness standards in after-school programs here. He's helped 630 corner stores sell healthier products like fruits and vegetables.
And thanks to Mayor Cornett, folks in Oklahoma City, as he told you, they have lost more than a million pounds. I mean, that's just amazing. And I think he put it best when he said: "Lives are being changed here." That's what's going on -- lives are being changed all over the country because that is exactly what all of these leaders are doing every day -- you all are changing our children’s lives every day. You’re helping them learn and grow and fulfill every last bit of their potential.
And thanks to the commitments that we’re announcing today, our cities, towns and counties will be better able to do even more. You all will be able to provide more healthy food for our kids. You’ll be able to build more playgrounds and play-spaces for our families. And no matter what challenge you’re confronting, no matter what project you decide to tackle, you’re going to have more of the tools and the assistance you need to truly make a difference in the lives of our kids.
And I want to be very clear to all of the other leaders out there -- you don’t have to spend a fortune to have an impact on this issue. And I know that today, many city and county budgets are stretched thinner than ever before. And I know that all of the leaders have to make some very hard choices to keep their cities, towns and counties afloat. But fortunately, when it comes to helping our kids lead healthier lives, it doesn’t take big money to get big results.
What it does take are manageable, common-sense changes in our families and our communities. What it does take is a commitment from all of us, not just as executives and officials, but as parents and grandparents who love our children and want to give them every opportunity to succeed.
And finally, it takes leaders like all of the folks here on this stage, pushing and innovating, and bringing people together on behalf of our children. And again, Mayor Johnson put it best when he said -- this is his quote -- he said, "My job is not to tell people to be healthy, but it's to create an atmosphere and opportunities for good health in Hernando." And that’s what all of these leaders are doing every single day. That’s what we’ve been doing over these past two and a half years through Let's Move.
And I just think about all that we’ve changed together, and all that we've achieved. Think about how, this afternoon, there are kids across this country, they're going to be out riding their bikes, and running around on playgrounds, and picking up vegetables at community gardens. And then this evening, parents are going to walk to stores in their communities and be able to pick up something healthy for dinner. This weekend, families are going to play together in their neighborhood parks, and hike together on local trails in their communities.
And make no mistake about it, these small daily acts -- is what I tell people -- these very small changes in how we live our lives -- all of that adds up over time. That's what makes the difference. And we’re already beginning to see the difference in communities across this country. We’re already feeling the momentum that we’ve created as leaders from every sector of our society are uniting on behalf of our kids. From our schools to our businesses, from our health providers to our faith leaders, everywhere we look we see people coming together to support families who want to make healthier choices.
And so much of that good work started in cities like Philadelphia and with leaders like all of the men and women here today. And today, I want to urge city, town and county leaders across this country to join us and become a part of this movement. I want you all to go to letsmove.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov -- that may be easier than healthycommunitieshealthyfutures.organization, but you can go to either one, and you can go there to sign up for Let’s Move Cities, Towns and Counties. It's a wonderful website and it's very user-friendly.
We want you to share your good ideas and best practices. We want you to take advantage of these new commitments and all the tools and expertise our partners have to offer.
And if anyone out there who's considering this ever has any doubt about the difference that you as leaders can make, I just want to share a story about a young 12 year-old boy named Mason Carter -- Mason Carter Harvey. He is from Oklahoma, and I had the privilege of meeting him earlier this year at the White House, at the Easter Egg Roll. He had traveled all the way to D.C.
And for years, Mason struggled with obesity -- and he showed me his picture -- until finally, last year, he decided that it was time for him to change his habits and to get healthy. So what did this young man do? He cut down chips and candy; he started playing sports -- he said he loves to ride his bike -- he started riding his bike. And within a year, this young man, 12 years old, lost 85 pounds. And today he is healthier than ever before. Look good, you know? (Laughter.)
And a few months ago, inspired by Mayor Cornett’s efforts in Oklahoma City, he sent the Mayor an email. And in his email he wrote he said, "It’s kind of funny that I'm writing this letter to you on Martin Luther King Day. He had a dream and so do I. My dream is to help other kids that are obese and help them get better. I would like to be a spokeskid." That's what he told the Mayor -- he wants to be a spokeskid.
And Mason followed his dream. He didn’t just write a letter, he followed his dream. And since that day, he has been traveling around the country -- that's why he was at the White House -- he's been giving speeches, he's been sharing stories with kids in his community. He’s sponsored walks and other events to help kids get active. He even created his own website called, strivefor85.com.
I mean, just imagine, 12 years old, showed up at the White House, too. (Laughter.) Amazing. Now, just imagine how much we could accomplish if we inspired more kids like Mason. Right? Imagine how many lives we could change. And that is the kind of impact that each of us can have -- each of the leaders of cities, towns and counties can have.
We still have a long way to go to solve this problem. We do, we have lots of work to do. But if leaders like all of these men and women keep coming to the table, and if we all keep working together, then I am beyond confident that we can give all of our children the happy, healthy futures they so richly deserve. I know that.
So I want to congratulate you all on the work that you're doing. I want to welcome more to join in. This actually is working. So we need more people signing onboard. So I want to thank you all.
And with that, I’m going to head over to this little station over here at KaBOOM -- we're going to do a little playground cutting, so that these kids who are here can actually start playing. That's the whole point.
So I want to thank you all so much. God bless. (Applause.)
12:43 P.M. EDT