Remarks By The First Lady In A Conversation With Craig Robinson And Michael Wilbon On Let’s Move! At Aspen Institute’s Project Play
11:46 A.M. EDT
MR. WILBON: Good morning. I think it’s still morning. We snuck in.
MRS. OBAMA: -ish.
MR. WILBON: Morning-ish. And thanks, everybody, for being here. Welcome to the feature panel of the Project Play Summit, where for the next we’re told about 30 minutes, give or take, three kids from, generally speaking, the same patch of land on the South Side of Chicago will do more than reminisce. We will talk about the experience of growing up there and participating in all manners of play -- parenting at a time when participation has become so complex -- and all three of us are that -- and also the necessity of increasing as much as we can participation, regardless of stature or income or bearing.
And so much of this is important to all three of us for every different reasons. And, first of all, we’re going to go back to 2010 and the Let’s Move! initiative, and this being an outgrowth of that, quite literally and figuratively.
So we’re going to start in the place that I said we would, going back a little bit. And Craig and I have discovered, even in the last week, that if there were giant -- if there were surveillance back then, we would have been in the same playgrounds and pools and other places like that.
MR. ROBINSON: Absolutely, absolutely.
MR. WILBON: Okay, so I can -- and I’ve known Craig long enough, I can put him on the spot right away and ask you what kind of athlete your little sister was. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: You’re putting him on the spot? Okay, all right. (Laughter.)
MR. ROBINSON: First of all, let me just tell you, Mike brought his notes, and I had a packet of notes on my sister and she told me to put it back, put it down when we left the house. (Laughter.)
But you folks should know that how I got to be as good of an athlete as I was had to do with my little sister. Because growing up, we played everything together, and I mean everything. And somebody over there coughed and laughed, but she’s actually -- might be the second-best athlete in the family behind my daughter. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: He’s number three. Well, you might be four.
MR. ROBINSON: I might be four now.
MRS. OBAMA: Well now you’ve got two little ones, so you might be seventh. (Laughter.)
MR. ROBINSON: But we used to play everything. And it started in the house, playing catch -- yes, we played catch in the house.
MRS. OBAMA: And it was a little house.
MR. ROBINSON: Have you seen Tiny House Nation? (Laughter.) That was our house.
MRS. OBAMA: We were the originators. We were like, what’s the big deal? That was our house. (Laughter.)
MR. ROBINSON: It was a one-bedroom house where we used the dining room as the living room, and the living room was our bedroom. And it had a small hall that had to go from the end of the stage to right here, and we played catch, we played running bases, we played hockey, we played football, and we played basketball. And just yesterday, my sister said, I should be better at basketball than I am, and I had to remind her that we used to play Nerf basketball in the living room with the lamp shade and a Nerf basketball. This was before they had Nerf hoops. (Laughter.)
And my mom’s here -- remember we almost burned the house down because we left the ball in the lamp, and somebody turned the lamp on, and my mother was like, what’s that I smell, is something burning? And we looked at each other like, ooh.
MRS. OBAMA: It’s the Nerf ball.
MR. ROBINSON: It’s the Nerf ball. (Laughter.) And it had a big burn hole in it.
But to get back to your question, Mike, my sister is very athletic. I mean, she was fast. She was coordinated, very good hand-eye. And we literally played every sport together until we got to the point where it got organized and I kept going and she couldn’t because they didn’t have organized girls --
MR. WILBON: Found other great things to do. (Laughter.) We need to acknowledge your mom, Mrs. Robinson, who had to referee all those battles and oversee everything. (Applause.) Welcome, and thank you so much for -- and just jump right in any time you want to --
MRS. OBAMA: And she’s an athlete, too, actually.
MR. ROBINSON: Oh, right. That’s right.
MRS. OBAMA: But that’s a story for another day.
MR. WILBON: What was it like, Mrs. Obama, for you growing up when you knew you had a big brother who was going to go on to, as it turns out, to big athletic things? Was there pressure to keep up? Was it automatically a spirit within you? Take us through those years.
MRS. OBAMA: Well, most of you know, my father, our father had MS, and he was an athlete. And before he contracted MS, he was a top-notch swimmer. He boxed. And then he went from being that man to being a man who couldn’t walk without the assistance of a cane. And we really only knew him after MS. We saw pictures of him as an athlete, but sports were very important to my father. He was an avid fan, but it was important for him that we played.
And he didn’t distinguish because I was a girl. I remember we both got our first pair of boxing gloves together. Craig got his pair, and I had a little-bitty pair of boxing gloves. And I would beat the heck out of him. (Laughter.) Because the rule was I could go in on him, he had to kind of go light on me.
But our father got us engaged in this. And one of the things -- Craig and I, we don’t take for granted activity, physical movement, because we know that when you have the blessing of being able to walk and run, you don’t take it for granted. So I was in the middle of everything. So it really wasn’t like he was the preferred athlete; I was in the middle of everything.
And it was really, as Craig said, it wasn’t until organized sports came into being, and there just weren’t opportunities for girls. There were no basketball -- there weren’t co-ed basketball leagues in our neighborhood. There weren’t girls’ leagues. I played softball, loved to play softball, but there were really no girls’ teams. So I spent a lot of time as a spectator because the opportunities weren’t there. So that’s something that we have to really think of.
Now, Title 9 has changed this so dramatically, and we’re fortunate. And if you live in the right neighborhood, like our girls, you have access to a whole range of sports. But that wasn’t the case. And if you don’t have the money in this society, you can’t afford it. Craig and I talk about the cost of keeping our kids in activities -- whether it’s rec leagues or dance classes or whatever -- when the kids were little and they were doing everything, we were paying $8,000, $10,000 a year for fees, and uniforms, and new shoes because their feet keep growing. And what family can afford that?
So we’re really limiting -- we’re not developing our next level of fans and competitors. We are missing out on a whole generation of kids who were like me who could have been like me, who could have been like Craig, but they don’t even have the opportunity. And we fell into that a little bit, but it was more because of gender rather than resources.
MR. WILBON: It’s been a passion of yours, too, for that gap to close completely; obviously, we start incrementally. But we should go back a little bit to Let’s Move! and the sort of transition into this area now. Because that truly has become a passion of yours, hasn’t it?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. We started with Let’s Move, and a lot of it was about nutrition, because as a mom, I struggled with what many parents struggle with -- when you’re busy and you’ve got two parents working, how are you feeding your kids? You’re going through the drive-thru a little bit too much, you’re incorporating processed foods a little bit too much. You’re doing too much takeout. And nowadays, kids have a hundred million channels to choose from, they’ve got their iPhones and their iPads. So the whole range of physical activity has changed, and as a result we’re seeing obesity rates increase.
And you can see as a parent, being in it, and how that can happen. And I saw that as a parent. And I thought, well, here I am, a Princeton-Harvard-educated mom who thought she was doing everything right. And at a point when my kids were little, the pediatrician was like, well, you’ve got to watch these numbers, just tracking their weight and height on a regular basis. He was like, you’ve got to change what you’re doing.
And with some minor changes -- cooking a little bit more, putting in more fruits and vegetables, cutting out the sugary drinks -- we changed our kids’ health outcomes in less than six months. And our pediatrician was like, what did you do, because whatever you did, I need to carry it through my whole pediatric practice.
And that’s when we started talking about how he was seeing just high rates of obesity because kids were having fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They weren’t getting recess anymore. Sports were being taken away from the schools. So I thought, well, when we get here to the White House -- assuming that my husband wins -- we need to start informing parents about this. We need to start an education process. Because everybody wants to do the best thing for their kids, but if they don’t have the information and they think that what they’re doing is the right thing when it’s absolutely the opposite of the right thing, how will we fix it.
So Let’s Move! was the beginning of that, where we talked about nutrition. But you can’t just talk about nutrition and not talk about physical activity, because it’s all part of the same arm. So we eventually built on nutrition and started talking about physical activity, and on and on and on. And here we are today.
MR. WILBON: And I mean schools -- this has to be a cooperative effort like we rarely see. And I want to ask you whether -- about that. Obviously, Craig, you have been involved at all levels of this, and at the highest level in terms of schools being involved. Take us through a little bit of what you saw and what you’ve seen recently, not just as a coach but also as a parent.
MR. ROBINSON: Well, what I see, especially as a coach, but particularly as a parent, is you have the gamut of parenting. You have, on one end, the over-parenting, where parents are trying to sort of force their kids into sports. And on the other end, I’ve got -- my wife and I, Kelly, have a six-year-old and a four-year-old, and we have the parents who bring their kids to the soccer field and are on their phones and sort of not paying attention. And then you have kids who don’t have the -- they don’t have the benefit of either, who are inside playing video games somewhere because they’re priced completely out of the sport market and the play market.
And I think it really -- I mean, first and foremost, it starts with being able to play as a little kid. I mean, it’s not safe to go outside and play. We talk about this all the time, that back in Chatham and in South Shore and the places that we grew up, there were rough neighborhoods, but not like now. You could go outside and run around and play on your block. So even if you weren’t in organized sports, you could run and do stuff.
MRS. OBAMA: And we would play all day, all day long. I mean, you would be rushing down your breakfast to go out, and kids would organize themselves. I mean, whether it was playing Piggy, which was a softball game -- we played this game with the kids in the neighborhood just called Chase. (Laughter.) I don’t even know if there was a point to it, but you were just being chased for a good chunk of the morning.
MR. WILBON: For hours.
MRS. OBAMA: For hours, being chased. (Laughter.)
MR. WILBON: I remember that.
MR. ROBINSON: Oh, yeah, I remember that. And all you had to do was report back to the house every couple of hours. We had to -- hey, mom, I’m back, and then you went back out and you played. And this was from 9:30 in the morning until right before it got dark.
MR. WILBON: One of the things that scares me -- this happened Sunday. I have an eight-year-old. And he is a play fanatic, everything, which makes me proud and happy. But we live in Bethesda, allegedly about as safe as it’s going to get in metropolitan Washington, right? So I see my wife walking out of the house with a lawn chair around 2:00 on Sunday, and I say, what are you doing with this lawn chair? And she said, I’m going to go and sit and watch Matthew shoot. And I said, you’re going to sit and watch him shoot? (Laughter.) First of all, he can shoot for hours because he thinks he’s the next Steph Curry. And she literally was going to take a lawn chair just out near our garage space and watch him shoot on the next-door neighbor’s basket.
And I just thought, this is a different world in which we live. I mean, I would have gotten on a bike and come over to South Shore, gone to Tuley Park -- I mean, at not much older than he is, at 10 and 11 years old -- and played all day on the South Side and never thought for a second about being harmed. And I’m sure -- just like you, I’d check in -- you’d check in at some point so your parents knew you were well. But that is something that -- how do we address, how do we get our arms around that phenomenon?
MR. ROBINSON: Well, it’s going to be hard. And I think the days of going outside to play are over. So you have to kind of, as a parent, decide what’s important. I mean, you have this leisure time -- and for us and for our parents, our dad and -- Miche talked about how he was handicapped -- it never precluded him from coming home from work and going outside with us. And it think you need more of that at a very early age so that you get trained in the mode of physical activity on a daily basis. And that’s just the start.
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, I hope the days of playing outside aren’t over and done with. I mean, there are communities that are more challenged because the streets have been overrun with crime and so on and so forth, but there are still communities out there where people do live this life, where it is safe enough for kids to go out to play.
But now, you’ve got to make sure you have enough of them, because if everybody is in an organized sport, if everybody’s time is structured and you’re the parent who’s trying to put play back in, well you send your kids out to play and there’s nobody to play with, because everybody is booked. They’re scheduled.
And that’s where the dilemma comes in -- either you can’t play outside because it’s unsafe, or you’re the only kid playing outside because everybody else is over-specialized, right? Because the thing about when we were growing up and Craig was into sports, you did every sport. He played Little League, he played Bitty Basketball, he did the version of AAU basketball. But you weren’t playing basketball for an entire year. You didn’t have a shooting coach and a dribbling coach, and then you got your nutrition experts and your -- that’s what I’m seeing now, is that kids now have to pick one sport at the age of 10, and then become, like, Tiger Woods, right? That’s our version.
So you’re taking them out of the mix of even just having a regular play life. And that’s particularly true if your kid is athletic, because you feel like in order for them to compete, they have to be hyper focused on that sport. So you’ve got parents now who have a great athlete, and they’ll be like, you can only play basketball because I don’t want you to get injured playing touch football. They become a commodity, and then they don’t even have the concept of play.
Right now, I think if you put a bunch of kids out in a field today, I don’t think they would know what to do. (Laughter.) We learned all these games -- Steal the Bacon and Duck, Duck, Goose -- all of these things you learned at recess and in P.E., which in -- let’s remember, in a lot of urban settings, those opportunities, recess and gym, don’t exist anymore for kids. So where are they even learning how to organize themselves socially so that when you put them in a field, they actually aren’t looking at the grass, but they start to, like, organize themselves? Kids these days don’t even know how to do that as well, because we’ve taken all those opportunities away from them.
So I hope it’s not dead. There’s a lot of things we can do to put it back in -- number one, making sure kids have recess at school. That’s where they’re spending most of their time. (Applause.) That is just as important as math and science to kids. If you’re a teacher and you’re working with boys in particular, they can’t sit still for an entire school day. They can’t physically do it.
Now, I have girls, and watching his two little boys come over -- I mean, they wear me out when they walk in the door. I’m just like, fellas, sit down. They’re always a little damp and sweaty and moist because they’re moving all the time. (Laughter.) You touch them and it’s like, why are you wet, little boy, get off of me! (Laughter.) My girls were dry for most of the time. (Laughter.)
So I feel for people with boys in today’s school systems where you don’t let them move. So how are we expecting them to be successful academically if the other part of their brain, that part that is movement and music and creativity, is not being exercised?
MR. WILBON: That leads me to a point -- a question. I know you recently made an announcement in Times Square with the U.S. Olympic Team regarding access to sports for all kids. And Let’s Move! obviously has been at the forefront of that. Why is it so important -- and I don’t even -- it’s difficult to ask you what can be done -- but for organizations in the private sector to value exactly what you’re talking about and sort of get behind -- if there can be momentum built?
MRS. OBAMA: It’s absolutely necessary. I mean, if we’re at the place now in our societies where we don’t want to be taxed to make sure that schools have it, if that’s what we’re saying -- we’re cutting it out because we don’t want to pay for the P.E. teacher, we don’t want to pay for the gym class, we don’t want that to be a governmental responsibility -- well, then, it’s up to all of you all corporate people. You’ve got to trickle it down if that’s the theory.
So it becomes even more critical for the big sports companies to be those facilitators of those activities. Because if you look at it from a business standpoint, where is your fan base going to come from? If you’ve got girls who never see sports, if you’ve got kids who’ve never touched a basketball, who are you recruiting? And who’s going to watch the Olympics if kids don’t know what half these sports are?
I mean, kids watch this stuff because they want to play it. They’re not spectators. So if we want the Olympics to continue to thrive, then we need to facilitate some fans and some excitement. Those are those kids in the street who don’t have recess anymore.
So if we’ve taken it out of the schools and we don’t value it, then it is going to be absolutely imperative for corporate America to go into these schools and put some gym and some sports back in. In the schools we grew up in -- and it’s different from the schools my kids go to -- private schools where they have a sport -- almost every sport, every team for boys and girls -- because the tuition is so high. You go to a public school in the inner city and maybe they have a basketball team, in middle school. Maybe. But you don’t even get to really play sports until you go to high school, and that’s if your high school can afford a sport. But they won’t have field hockey. They’ll either have basketball or football, maybe a girls’ team. If you don’t have a pool, you’re not going to have a swim team.
I mean, let’s just sort of think about what we’ve structured here for this generation. These are our kids. So if we’re not going to do it through the school systems, and we’ve decided that as a people as a society that that’s too expensive, or we don’t trust that system to do it, then who else is going to do it? We’re just going to let sports just fritter away in our culture?
So who’s going to watch the next Olympics? Because these kids won’t be interested in it if they don’t know anything about it.
MR. WILBON: Well, Craig, it seems like coaches are going to have to be at the forefront of any cooperative with the private sector, because the private sector, even if -- obviously, financing this, not going to have the knowledge, the know-how to apply it. How do coaches fit in? Are you seeing coaches being hired in these capacities to sort of help this movement?
MR. ROBINSON: Well, in a word, no. What we’re missing is we’re missing that guy -- my old AU coach, Johnny Gage (ph) was a -- at the time, I thought he was much older than I was, but he coached us at the age of 19. He’s coaching 13-year-olds. And he wanted to be a coach. And you’re not seeing a lot of those folks anymore. Everybody is moving away to do something different.
That’s one. So you don’t see as many young coaches. They’re gravitating to sort of trying to get into the high-priced college and pro game. So you don’t have grassroots guys, which then puts it back on the parents.
And our first coach was our father. I mean, he coached us every day. We were out there playing, get down on the ground, baseball position, get your elbow in when you shoot; this is how you swim. And if we’re not going to get professional coaches to help us do this, we’ve got to, as a society, take responsibility as parents to do it, no matter how busy we are.
MR. WILBON: What sort of things -- I know you were involved in -- I don’t know how you keep in the balls in the air. But to that end, Craig, tell us about some of the things you’re involved in now in addition to working and parenting.
MR. ROBINSON: Well, in addition to, let’s see, working at ESPN, and I’ve got four kids -- one is working, one is in college and then two younger kids -- as much as I can, I love going around and telling our story of how important athletics, sports, activity was in our lives.
And it was not as if our parents used it as a motivator, either -- oh, if you don’t get good grades, you can’t play sports. It was just part of the fabric of growing up, just like you get up in the morning, you eat, you go outside and play on days when you didn’t have school. And when you were at school, you did your schoolwork, and then you went outside and played.
So what I’m spending time doing is working and going around and talking about that in hopes that we as parents sort of embrace the fact that we have these children. We have to keep them active. Nobody is going to keep them active for us.
MR. WILBON: Mrs. Obama, I wanted to ask you about Project Play -- a report recently recognizing that sports participation rates among youth living in households with the lowest incomes are about half that of youth from wealthier homes. And we talked about this early. Are there other ways that we should be looking at to close that gap and make people understand why it’s important?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, at some point, it’s going to require an investment. So the question is, where do you make that investment? In the past, we made the investment in school, because everybody went to school or goes to school. So that was the easiest place -- recess, gym, sports in school. That costs money. We hit a wall, so we stopped investing.
So then the next level of investment comes in youth centers, sports clubs. But again, that’s an investment because you’ve got to have places with gyms, and you’ve got hire staff, you’ve got to have equipment, you have to -- so if you look to the Boys and Girls Clubs, or youth leagues, that still requires and investment.
So at some level, we have to kind of ask ourselves how much are we willing to invest in the kids in our society? Because at some point, we’ve got to make that investment, even if it’s an investment in better parks in every community, creating safe spaces where kids can go out to play. On the South Side, now, we had parks, and some of those parks just aren’t -- they haven’t been maintained. The sports fields don’t work, the swings are broken.
In so many communities you have a place for a park, but it’s going to take an investment to make it a place that kids will actually use. So where does that investment come from? That’s the city. So we don’t want to do that anymore, so it’s just -- slowly it’s becoming a desert, a play desert. So many communities are becoming play deserts.
But in wealthy communities, there is a wealth of resources. You can be in field hockey, or you can learn how to swim. There are aquatic centers and -- I’ve seen the difference. The disparities are amazing to me. So are we saying that some kids are worthy of that investment and physical activity, and then there are millions of others who aren’t? And what’s the role that we as a society have for making sure that kids have equal access?
But that’s also true for music and art, and all of these wonderful things. That why Let’s Move! is so important to me, because my view is, as a parent, is if I think this is important for my kids, it’s important for every kid. So it can’t be good enough that my kid has it if the vast majority of kids in this country don’t have it. Because who are my kids going to play with? Who are they going to compete against?
And I just hope that we get out of that mentality of “I got mine over here, and as long as mine are good, good luck.” It’s that “eat or be eaten” kind of -- but that’s basically what we’re doing when it comes to sports. Because we’re okay going into some neighborhoods where there isn’t even a field, but in other communities, there is every field -- there are more fields than there are kids. There are more opportunities than there are kids.
But we have to kind of look at ourselves and say, how did we get here, and why is that okay? Because right now it’s okay. We’re okay with that. And that’s sad.
MR. WILBON: The most dramatic instance of that I’ve ever seen was when I was working as a reporter at the Washington Post. And literally, the 24 hours in the aftermath of the riots in L.A. in 1990 -- what, 1991, or 1992. My sports editor had a brilliant idea. He said, look, why don’t you go out to Los Angeles, find out if there’s any connection between the people who are -- we are seeing on Nightline every night, the Crips and Bloods, and lack of opportunity to play the way they used to.
And my initial reaction was, what? This is a stretch. So I got on a plane and went to L.A. And I got lucky in that I ran into Crips and Bloods who were literally at the forefront of trying to negotiate a peace settlement. And a couple of guys recognized me from television, and they said, hey, what are you doing out here? And I said, I want to know if there’s any sort of connection. What did you guys used to do? What did you do at 10, 11 and 12 years old, and do you still play? Do you still -- and all these guys are between 18 and 25 at this point. And they say, you know what, what are you doing tomorrow morning? And I said, I’ll do whatever you tell me. And they said, we’re going to pick you up and take you and show you.
And literally, they drove me through South Central and other parts of L.A. where fields were overgrown, where field houses and youth activity centers were closed. And they talked about -- and they had photos of the times they used to play with and against each other, and instead of Dodgers and Angels and Cubs and Yankees, they became Crips and Bloods.
And it was a startling revelation -- perhaps it shouldn’t have been -- because the problems in South Central could have been -- we could have named a city, right? What urban area is that different -- that was playing out because of the riots and the days after Rodney King. But it was a stunning thing.
And I wound up writing stories on A1 about it for the Washington Post, and I hope people didn’t feel it was 3,000 miles removed. Because it could have been Southeast or Northeast or the South Side. And we’re lucky -- I drive out to those parks, by the way. I drive out to West Chatham and Tuley just to see what’s going on, and if they’re still viable, the places that we played.
MRS. OBAMA: And are they?
MR. WILBON: And some are, but not nearly as many as we had access to.
MRS. OBAMA: When we were growing up. Well, we can’t be surprised with what kids do with idle time. And that’s sort of one of the things -- when we look at crime rates and all that sort of stuff, it’s like, these are a bunch of bored kids that are unsupervised who don’t know how to play. If we start there -- and then we give them a gun. And then you’ve got such a lethal combination.
Why can’t we put those things together? Why are we confused about why crime rates are going up? It’s not a complicated set of scenarios, unless people don’t really understand just what a wasteland so many kids are living in in terms of activity. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe people look at their lives and think, well, if my kids have it, then it couldn’t be that bad. It is that bad.
We are raising kids and whole communities where there is no place for them to play. There’s nothing for them to play with, nobody to play with, no supervision. And we wonder why they just go off on society.
So this is essential, not to mention the whole socialization piece. I mean, look at all the things we learned just by playing. We learned problem-solving. We learned how to communicate. We learned how to resolve differences without an adult being there. We learned how to organize our time when we were bored. We learned --
MR. ROBINSON: Team work. We learned leadership. We were talking the other day -- my four-year-old is learning math because he’s trying to keep score when he’s playing against his brother. And there’s just so many things that people who have decided to remove athletics and sports and recreation from the system -- sort of like unintended consequences that they didn’t think about.
MR. WILBON: Yes, I don’t know that mine would be able to count, except he can get basketball scores -- he’d probably be able to get earned run average. That’ll be the advanced math.
I guess we should probably close here soon. There’s some fascinating things in all sort of areas we could go into, but obviously, we’d be remiss without talking about some possible solutions and whether or not we think we can get to the place that we all would like to arrive with being able to reinstate, for starters, some of the things -- I mean, we’ve gone backward, clearly, in this area.
I mean, looking at the places that were available, the opportunities that were available to us when money wasn’t at the forefront of it. Now you guys are scaring me, talking about these fees. Because with an eight-year-old, I’m just coming into that.
MRS. OBAMA: Get ready. You’ve got to save up for play these days. You’ve got to have a play scholarship fund. (Laughter.) You’ve got college scholarship, and then you’ve got just play. It’s going to cost you.
MR. WILBON: The fees I’m starting to recognize. What sorts of areas would you like to see initiated? What sort of recommendations? Craig, let’s start with you.
MR. ROBINSON: Well, clearly, my sister is right on point with corporate America, but not just corporate America is going to see this. I think it’s places that you and I work for, like ESPN, who have such a broad reach and are reliant upon future sports fans. They have to be a stakeholder, which they are, but has to continue.
The shoe companies who make a ton of money off of these same young kids, but not because they’re wearing their shoes out playing, they’re wearing them out as --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Fashion --
MR. ROBINSON: -- I heard somebody over there, as a fashion statement. That is exactly right. You need to have places like Nike and Adidas and Under Armor be your stakeholders.
I would be remiss if -- you’ve got to have your professional athletes, the guys who have made it, have to -- as hard as it is, they have to be a standard-bearer for this. It is really a team effort. And that’s just to start, from my perspective.
And then, as I keep harping on, it has to be the family. I mean, it’s tough for families who don’t have a lot, and a single-parent family where the mom or the dad is doing everything on their own. They come home from work, they’re too tired to play -- well, I had both my parents, but I don’t get it because my dad had MS and he was out there every day working a swing shift, and he’s taking us up to the park and pitching to her, and I’m catching out in the field, and we’re playing a three-person baseball game.
So that’s just to start. And I think we can do it.
MRS. OBAMA: We have to. This isn’t something that’s an option. It’s the thing that keeps our society healthy and whole. It’s the investment we make in that next generation.
But I would say -- there are so many great programs already out there. This is the thing -- this is where the investment comes in. Just like with schools, we know what great schools look like. It’s not like it’s a mystery. There are thousands of really great school -- public schools and charter schools, and you name them. The question is how do we replicate the good stuff? It’s an investment.
And the same thing is true with a whole range of programs. We have Let’s Move! in schools, where Nike is working to help teachers think of creative ways to put movement back into the school day. You’ve got a lot of corporations that are already sponsoring some really good initiatives. You’ve got -- in some cities, where they’ve found how important sports can be in community policing in South Central L.A. You’ve got police officers who are setting up football leagues, and they’re redeveloping whole relationships between law enforcement and kids in those communities.
If we wanted to just line up all the programs that are working and find out which ones are really working and why and which ones work in urban settings and rural settings, we probably already have the answers. Now we have to scale it. And that goes back to priority, intent, and investment. Because none of it is free. We’ve just shifted the burden back on families to say, it’s up to you: So if you have resources, you’re going to be good. But if you don’t, well, your kids are going to be hanging out in the street, and then we’ll be mad at you because you don’t your kids under control.
But this has to become a priority in our society. We can’t just sort of think that, well, kids in play, I mean, we can figure this out, this isn’t my problem. This is all of our problems. From the government to the military -- this is where Mark was talking about -- kids who aren’t playing sports show up at training unprepared to serve because you put a backpack on a kid who doesn’t run or hasn’t run and tell them to run 10 miles, they fracture something, and then who’s got to pay for that? Or if they’re not eating well -- because they’ve had soda most of their live, now they have dental issues that the military is covering.
This affects all of us. Play and nutrition and overall investment in our kids -- whether they can read and think and engage -- it’s just not enough for us to be okay with so many kids not having that at an excellent level.
So whatever the dollar figure is, as a society, as taxpayers and as corporate America and who -- we should figure out how much that costs, and then pay for it. Period. (Applause.)
MR. WILBON: Yes, because we’d pay a lot less on the front end than we’d do on the back.
Just as a way of closing, it starts with all of us, those of us who, whether we’re entrepreneurial and have our own things going on, or whether we’re working for entities that need to be invested locally -- and by locally, I mean the most local way, right there, right at home. When you see the neglect that has to be reversed and proactively, children who need to be introduced to this if they’re not already. And obviously, Let’s Move! and Project Play have been at the forefront of this for a while now, and I think we should thank Craig and thank the First Lady again for coming to discuss something that’s so vital and important and compelling to any community -- thank them for being here, both of you, and taking your time to discuss this. It’s fascinating.
MRS. OBAMA: Well then, Mike, let me also thank the people in this room who have prioritized it. This is a room full of people who are putting these issues front and center. And I’m grateful to all of you all. I can start Let’s Move! and get some attention around it, but, as I say to many of you when I meet you, you all are the ones doing the hard work on the ground every day.
And I know it has been a lonely fight. It’s been a lonely mission. But I for one, as First Lady of the United States, I’m grateful to all of you for the passion and commitment you show to our next generation. And we just need more of you, that’s all. You have to go replicate yourselves and recruit more people.
But we’re in a room full of folks right here who are prioritizing it, making it front and center, putting the investment in, putting in the elbow grease, the love. All of you are stars in this show, and I’m just grateful. (Applause.)
12:28 P.M. EDT