Remarks by the First Lady and the President at the Kids' "State Dinner"
State Dining Room
11:56 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: I see tears. (Laughter.) I do. Wow, Abby, amazing. We're so proud of you. Man, good stuff! Very good stuff.
You guys, welcome to the White House. Let’s say that again -- welcome to the White House! (Applause.)
This is the whole house’s favorite event -- the Kids’ State Dinner. Look at this place. Do you know how many people put time and effort into making this as amazing as it can be for you? So let’s give everyone who helped put this event together a wonderful round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to again thank Abby for her amazing introduction, but more importantly, for listening to what I said about paying it forward. I thank you. (Laughter.) I need you to talk to my children. (Laughter.) Listen to me. (Laughter.) Abby, great job. So proud of you, babe, really.
I also want to thank PBS and WGBH Boston for their tremendous generosity in sponsoring our Kids’ State Dinner and our Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. So I want to give them another round of applause. (Applause.)
And, of course, to Tanya. Tanya, this is just a great partnership. You are amazing. There you are. The work you do is amazing. And it’s always so much fun seeing you here at this event. Thank you for everything that you do year after year.
I also want to acknowledge all the folks from the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture. They make a fabulous set of partners on so much of the work that we do. And I know we have representatives from those departments here, so I want to thank you all for the great work that you do. Well done.
And how about we give a shout-out to the parents and siblings and grandparents who -- yes -- (laughter) -- who got you all here today. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) We want to say officially thank you, families, for encouraging these young people -- even when they made a mess in the kitchen. But I’m sure they cleaned up, too. Right? (Laughter.) Thank you all. Thank you for raising and being part of raising such wonderful young men and women. And it's wonderful to have you all here. They couldn't do it without you and without that support. So we are celebrating you all as well.
And finally, most of all, congratulations to all of this year’s 55 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winners! (Applause.) That’s you! And you, and you! Yes! Just so that our press understands -- welcome press -- (laughter) -- all our young press people. This is the only time we let kids in the press pool. You guys do your jobs. Do your jobs over there. Don’t let the grown-ups push you out of the way. (Laughter.)
Nearly 1,000 kids entered this contest -- 1,000! Right? This was a real competition. But after countless hours of prepping and taste-testing your recipes, our panel of distinguished judges -- some of whom are here today, including Deb -- she ate every bite -- (laughter) -- decided that your meals were the healthiest, tastiest, and most fun dishes to cook and to eat!
So you had many hurdles to overcome. It had to be healthy, tasty, and good to eat, and you did it! Yes! (Applause.) Fabulous! And you look so good! (Laughter.) You all are so handsome and gorgeous. So you can cook and your smart and you look great, and you’re here at the White House. It’s just wonderful.
You blew the judges away with your talent and creativity. You included fruits and veggies from every color of the rainbow in your recipes. You used all kinds of ingredients -- flax seed -- do any of the adults even know what flax seed is? (Laughter.) Cumin, and we have yellow miso paste that was included in one of the recipes -- pretty sophisticated.
And you came up with some of the catchiest recipe names imaginable -- one of my favorites, Mango-Cango Chicken. Who is our Mango -- where is our Mango-Cango young man? There you are. Mango-Cango. (Applause.) We had Fizzle Sizzle Stir Fry. Who created Fizzle Sizzle Stir Fry? Where is our -- there you go! And then, Sam’s Southern Savoring Salmon Supreme -- or S to the 5th power. (Laughter.) Sam, was that you? (Applause.) And so many more. You guys have the menus. We’re tasting just a few of them. One is the Mic-Kale Obama Slaw -- what is that? I love that one.
And your reasons for creating these dishes were as varied as the ingredients, as Tanya said. Some of you play sports and you realize that you need good nutrition to be able to compete. As Hannah Betts -- where’s Hannah? Hannah, where are you? Hannah! This is what Hannah Betts, our winner from Connecticut, said -- this is her quote -- she said, “I do gymnastics and swimming, so I need food that is going to fill me up and give me lots of energy.” Outstanding.
For some of you, cooking is a way to bond with your families and relive happy memories from when you were little. And that’s why Felix Gonzalez -- Felix, where are you? There you go, there you go. You told me this story in the photo line. He’s from Puerto Rico. He created his “Wrap it Up” chicken wrap -- and this is his quote -- he said, “I decided to make this dish as a wrap because I was thinking about the fun times when my dad wrapped me up as a burrito --(laughter)-- with a blanket when I was a small child.” Yeah, cool, dude. Cool. (Laughter.)
Some of you became interested in cooking because you were worried about your friends’ unhealthy eating habits. Something that I try to work with my friends on all the time. Now, Izzy Washburn from Kentucky actually did -- this is Izzy -- raise your hand. Izzy right there. She did a science experiment comparing school lunches to the lunches her friends brought from home, and the school lunches turned out to be healthier, according to your experiment.
And that wasn’t always the case. We all know that we’ve seen some tremendous improvements in our school lunches over these years. And it actually took a whole lot of work by people in your school cafeterias to actually accomplish this goal.
Back in 2010, based on some advice that we got from doctors and nutritionists and scientists in this country, we realized that we needed to improve the quality of school meals by adding fruits and veggies and whole grains. And it required a lot -- a little energy to make that happen, a little pushing back. But right now, today, 95 percent of schools in this country are now meeting those new standards. And that’s a wonderful achievement. (Applause.)
So now tens of millions of kids are now getting better nutrition every single day. Just like Abby pointed out, there are many kids who go to school and they don’t have breakfast, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So you imagine, now the schools all over this country are providing that kind of nutrition so kids who might not get that nutrition at home are getting it at school. This is an important step forward. And I know you guys all agree because you understand the importance of healthy eating.
So I know that Izzy certainly believes so. This is her quote -- she said, “It’s important to teach my friends what good choices look like and how what fuel they choose for their bodies affects how they perform throughout their day.” Very wise for such a little-bitty person. (Laughter.)
And that’s why we created Let's Move and started hosting these Kids’ State Dinners -- because, as Abby said in her remarks, we want you guys to be ambassadors and to talk about healthy eating in your schools and in your communities.
So that’s really one of the things -- one of the things you will do to pay for this opportunity is that you’re going to pay it forward, and hopefully when you go back, you’ll not only share this experience with your friends and family, but you’ll also talk about why we’re doing this. Because a lot of kids don’t understand that food is fuel in a very fundamental way. And sometimes they don’t listen to grown-ups, and they don’t listen to the First Lady. But many of them will listen to you because you’re living proof of that reality.
So I want you to kind of think about how you can move this issue forward in your communities. What more can you do when you get back home to continue this conversation and to engage more young people in the work that you all do. That’s the only thing that I ask of you -- and just to keep being the amazing, wonderful human beings that you are.
We developed this really cool -- we worked with a PR firm to develop this really cool campaign for fruits and vegetables called FNV. And it's being piloted in certain parts of the country. The idea behind the campaign is very simple: If unhealthy foods can have all kinds of advertisements and celebrity endorsements, then why can't we do that for fruits and vegetables? Right?
So we've got Jessica Alba involved, and Colin Kaepernick, and Nick Jonas, and Steph Curry. I just saw a full-page ad in a paper with Steph in a suit and a basketball, talking about the importance of veggies. And so many other athletes and celebrities have signed up to show their support for fruits and vegetables.
And now we need you guys to sign up. You can get involved in this campaign. It involves T-shirts and fans and sweat bands, and there are things that you can do to be engaged -- lot of fun. All you have to do is go to FNV.com to check it out and figure out how you can join the FNV Team. And you guys will be among the first ambassadors through FNV. So, soon as you get out of here -- don't pull out any phones right now. (Laughter.) Go to FNV and check it out. And then tell us what you think -- because we want your feedback.
So really, there’s so many ways that you guys can be leaders in your communities and help us build a healthier country for generations to come.
And with your award-winning recipes, you’re already well on your way. And I’m so proud of everything you all are doing. The President is so proud of everything you all are doing. And I just want you all to keep going, have fun.
And now we get to eat. (Laughter.) We get to try some of the -- yes, we get to eat. (Laughter.) So bon appétit, everyone. (Laughter.) Let’s get going! Let’s eat! (Applause.)
Oh, wait! Wait! (The President enters.) We have one more thing -- (applause.) I'm sorry. I know you're hungry, but I'd like to introduce to you guys the President of the United States. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you! Hello, everybody! How are you? (Applause.) So, everybody can have a seat. Have a seat.
I'm sorry to crash your little party here. (Laughter.) But I just wanted to say hi to everybody. And I wanted to let you know that, first of all, I'm very proud of everything that my outstanding wife has done -- (applause) -- when it comes to healthy eating and Let's Move. And we're celebrating the fifth anniversary of Let's Move. So, you guys move?
THE PRESIDENT: You guys are movers? Okay. You guys look pretty healthy, I got to admit. This is a good-looking group. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: A good-looking group.
THE PRESIDENT: And so I also just wanted to let you know that although I can't stay and eat right now, that I've looked over the menu and the food looks outstanding. I particularly am impressed with the Barackamole. (Laughter.) So I'm expecting people to save me a little sampling of the Barackamole.
I also noticed that there are a lot of good vegetables on the menu, including my favorite vegetable -- broccoli. (Laughter.) Did somebody raise their hand?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, I told these two that was your favorite vegetable.
THE PRESIDENT: You didn’t believe me? (Laughter.) It's true, I love broccoli. I eat it all the time. Anybody else love broccoli?
THE PRESIDENT: That's what I'm talking about. (Laughter.)
So I know that all your parents are so proud of you for having come up with these outstanding recipes. And the reason it's so important for you guys to be here and to be doing what you're doing is because the truth is, is that parents, it turns out, don't always have the most influence -- (laughter) -- in terms of encouraging young people to eat healthy.
What really helps is when their friends at school are all, like, oh, you're having chips? I'm sorry, I'm having the Barackamole. (Laughter.) And then, because you're a cool kid, suddenly the other kids are all, like, well, if that cool kid is eating broccoli, maybe I should try that broccoli out. So you guys are setting a great example for all your friends in school and in the neighborhoods, and we're really proud of you for that.
All right? So I'm proud of you. And I hope you guys have a wonderful dinner. And I'm going to come around and shake hands with people, but I can't take selfies with everybody because I've actually got just a few other things to do. (Laughter.) So that would end up taking too long. All right? But you can take pictures while I'm shaking hands. I just can't, like, pose and -- (laughter) -- all that stuff.
Oops -- that's okay, I get nervous, too. (Laughter.) Whenever I'm at state dinners I'm always spilling stuff. (Laughter.) Usually on my tie.
Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Let’s eat!
THE PRESIDENT: Let’s eat! (Applause.)