Remarks by the President and the First Lady Welcoming the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams
10:14 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: All right. While they're shaking hands -- because the President has vowed to stay out here to meet everyone, even if it blows his schedule. (Laughter and applause.) So I'm going to get things started while Joe and Barack do their thing.
Hello, Team USA! (Applause.) And welcome to the White House! Yes! (Applause.) Look, I had so much fun with everyone over in London that when I got home, I told Barack -- what's his name -- my husband, this guy -- (laughter) -- that we had to invite everybody over to the house. So here you are, and we are thrilled that you all could join us today.
Now leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympic Ceremony was truly a dream come true for me. I got the chance to spend time with so many of you and hear about your journeys. I got to see how incredibly talented all of you are -- including one member of our women's wrestling team who literally swept me off my feet -- (laughter) -- if you hadn't seen the pictures. I've never been picked up before by a wrestler. (Laughter.) It was good.
And I got to see Team USA win, and then win again, and again, and again. And together, our Olympians and Paralympians brought home more than 200 medals from London -- that’s impressive. (Applause.) Very impressive.
But even more impressive than those medals is all the hard work that led up to that Olympic and Paralympic dream. All those early mornings and long hours at the gym, many of you balancing work or classes, or raising your kids at the same time. And today, I want you all to know how proud we are of you, which is why this day has been so special. We've been looking forward to this for a very long time.
I want you to know how inspired we are by all of you -- your passion, your dedication, your courage. This summer, people across the country -- including some of the young people with us today -- watched you compete and thought to themselves, you know what, if they can set a goal and work hard to reach it, maybe I can too, and maybe I can go a little farther and do a little better than people think I can. They saw all of you out there giving 100 percent, overcoming all kinds of obstacles, representing our country with such determination and pride.
They saw athletes like Navy Lieutenant Brad Snyder, who is here with us today.
THE PRESIDENT: Where's Brad?
MRS. OBAMA: Right here. (Applause.) There's Brad. Just one year ago, Lieutenant Snyder was blinded by an IED in Afghanistan. But this summer, he competed in London, winning two gold medals and a silver. (Applause.) And afterwards, he said -- this is his quote -- "To be able to come out here, and to keep in the fight, and keep going and keep inspiring, and keep perpetuating some goodwill for our country means a lot."
And that means a lot to us, too. It means a lot that all of you chose to stand up and represent this country; to carry our flag and remind us what an honor it is to call ourselves Americans. And today, I want to once again congratulate you all on your achievements.
I also want to thank the USOC and all of you for getting more young people involved in sports in their communities as part of Let's Move. By the end of this year, we will have helped 1.7 million kids all across the country get healthy and active -- and maybe we've inspired some future Olympian and Paralympians, as well. So we appreciate everything you all have done, and I want to wish you the very best of luck in whatever you choose to do next.
And with that, it is now my pleasure to introduce another big fan of yours, my husband, our President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Hey! (Applause.) Thank you. I'm the fan-in-chief! (Laughter.)
It is great to have Team USA here at the White House. And I want to thank Michelle for not teasing me too much, which is usually what she does in her introductions. It is true, I was pretty jealous of the fact that she had a chance to go to London.
But like millions of Americans, I had almost as much fun just following you guys from here and what you did. I usually work pretty late, but I’ve have mastered the DVR -- (laughter) -- so I was able to catch a little bit of everything. It was a great way to end the day, watching you guys do things that I did not think were humanly possible.
So every morning, when Michelle and I would work out we’d talk about, did you see that thing?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, it was good.
THE PRESIDENT: That was unbelievable. (Laughter.) And then I’d jog on the treadmill. (Laughter.) But I was inspired to watch you guys even though I couldn’t do what you do. I was inspired to run a little bit faster watching Tyson Gay, and lift a little more after watching Holley Mangold, or do a few more crunches after watching Michael Phelps and the other swimmers. (Laughter.) Somehow, it didn’t work quite on me. (Laughter.) And wheelchair rugby -- I’m just glad you guys aren’t taking me out. (Laughter and applause.)
But most importantly, what you guys did was inspire us. You made us proud. And, as President, you made me especially proud to see how you conducted yourself on a world stage. You could not have been better ambassadors and better representatives for the United States and what we stand for.
And one of the great things about watching our Olympics is we are a portrait of what this country is all about -- people from every walk of life, every background, every race, every faith. It sends a message to the world about what makes America special. It speaks to the character of this group, how you guys carried yourselves. And it’s even more impressive when you think about the obstacles that many of you have had to overcome not just to succeed at the games, but to get there in the first place.
Thirteen years ago, Kari Miller was serving in the Army when her car was hit by a drunk driver. She lost both her legs. She went onto college, learned how to play sitting volleyball. Today she is the proud owner of two silver medals. (Applause.)
Lance Brooks is here. Leading up to the Olympic Games, he had a job pouring concrete for 12 hours a day, and still managed to put in two more hours of training in the discus.
Katie Ledecky may have been swimming in London, but she still had to finish the summer reading assignments for her high school English class. (Laughter.) Where’s Katie? Yes, there she is. (Applause.) She brought some of her classmates here today. (Applause.)
And then there’s Manteo Mitchell. Where is he? Now, this has to be one of my favorite stories of the whole Olympics -- breaks his shin bone halfway through his lap on the 4X400 meter relay, but he finishes anyway in 46 seconds, and helps the U.S. qualify for the final. (Applause.) Right here. Unbelievable.
So all of you have stories of determination and perseverance. All of you made incredible sacrifices to get here.
About a month ago, I was in Colorado Springs. We stopped by the Olympic training center and I met a bunch of athletes, including some of the amazing Paralympians that were just about to head out. I got to meet some of the bobsledders who were working out together for the next Winter Olympics, and it was just amazing to see not only how hard people were training, but also to hear how much you guys get to eat during training -- (laughter) -- which I was very impressed with.
So I hope that all of you guys get some well-deserved time off over the next few months. But I know that pretty soon, many of you will be back in the gym or on the track or in the pool, thinking about Rio, because the Olympics is not just about what happens on the big stage in front of the cameras when the world is watching. It’s about what’s happening when nobody is watching. And that’s what really counts.
As Olympians and Paralympians, you guys all find the strength to keep pushing on good days and bad days -- because you believe that no matter where we come from, or no matter what hand we’ve been dealt in life, with enough effort, there is no limit to how far we can go.
That’s what sets all of you apart. That’s what sets America apart. We celebrate individual effort, but we also know that, together, we can do incredible things that we couldn’t accomplish on our own.
So thank you for being such great role models, especially for our young people. We could not be prouder of you. You gave us a summer that we will never forget. It is a great honor to welcome you home. And I’ve been told that, because of my schedule, I’m not allowed to shake everybody’s hands, but I am going to break the rule and try to shake as many as I can before I get dragged out of here.
God bless you. Marine band, let’s hit the music! I love this!
10:25 A.M. EDT