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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at Congressional Service Event

Kennedy Recreation Center
Washington, D.C.

1:32 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Hey, everybody.  Forgive me.  I am done with my cold, but it’s still there.  It’s good to see everybody.  First let me thank Patrick for the kind introduction and the work that he’s doing with the corporation.  He is a fabulous addition to the team and he’s hitting the ground running.  And we are just thrilled to have him.  So let’s give him a round of applause.  (Applause.)   

I want to thank all the AmeriCorps volunteers who are here today.  You guys, raise your hands.  You're doing some great work.  (Applause.)  I understand this group has just come back from Louisiana and all along the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, so they’ve just come back and already they’re hitting this project.  So we are just so appreciative and proud of the work that you all are doing.  Keep it up -- and recruit more people all the time.

And I have to thank our congressional families, all of you here, for bringing your families.  They’re so cute!  Everyone is just looking very spring-like.  And I know you all are busy, and it’s just wonderful that you take the time from juggling all the many responsibilities that you have, to come and do even more for the community. 

Many of you already are leading service initiatives back in your home states and in your districts.  And I think it’s great that you show your passion and commitment again by supporting efforts here in Washington, D.C.  So it’s just really terrific, this day, spending time with you all.   

You all know the difference that a few passionate, committed individuals can make in the life of a family, a school, a neighborhood and a community.  And we all want to encourage folks to make that kind of difference every day all across the country.

That’s why today, I’m proud to officially launch our second annual United We Serve Summer Service Initiative.  This is a nationwide effort calling on Americans to make service a part of their daily lives.  And when we say all, we truly mean all.  That's everybody.  That's grownups; that's you little, bitty people.  That's everyone, from every background, from every corner of every community in this country.  We’re going to be asking individuals and community organizations, corporations, foundations and the  government to come together and devote their time and energy to helping our fellow Americans in need.

United We Serve is going to be led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, and this year’s theme is “Let’s Read.  Let’s Move.”  Right?  “Let’s Read.  Let’s Move.”  (Applause.)  The idea this summer is simple and it sort of piggybacks off of the work that I've been doing with childhood obesity, but we want to do everything we can to help our kids stay active and healthy -– and to keep them learning –- all throughout the summer.

And we always have our work cut out for us in these areas.  As I’ve said many times, it comes to -- when it comes to the health of our children, the statistics are always staggering.  One in three kids in this nation are either overweight or obese.  And a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that only 17 percent of high school students reported getting the 60 minutes a day of physical activity that experts recommend that they get  -- only 17 percent.

We also know that during the summer, when our kids take a break from school, too many of them experience what they call summer learning loss.  And I know kids you don't like to hear this, but we think about this all the time -- will you retain anything that you learned during the year?  See, your moms know.  And a lot of kids sometimes find that they forget some of the things that they learned throughout the school years, and as a result, if they stop learning through the summer, they can fall behind and then they’re struggling throughout the year.

This summer, though, through United We Serve, we plan to address these problems head on by getting our kids, number one, to exercise -- to move, right?  And not just to exercise their bodies, but we want you guys to exercise your minds.  That's right.  You’re helping me out.  You know.  I don't know what your name is.  I’m going to find your name.  (Laughter.)  But you know what I’m talking about, right?  Exercising your mind and to improve what you eat, as well.  That's also part of it.

But we’ll need help from folks all across the country to get this done.  We’re going to need people to step up and volunteer to build and renovate playgrounds, and clear walking trails, and create community gardens, and organize book drives, and to take the time to serve as tutors and as mentors and to read to children of all ages. 

Even if you have just a few hours -- I mean, that's the thing -- it doesn’t take a lot of time -- a few hours a week can really make the difference.  You don’t need to be a specialist.  You don't need to be a math tutor.  You don't need to be a physical fitness expert.  You don't even need to really be in shape yourself.  You can use this to get in shape, to get focused.  So you don't have to come to this with special skills, because no matter what you bring to the table or reasons for being involved in the community, what this event I think shows is that we can come together as a nation around some really critical issues that affect our kids.

It doesn’t matter whether we agree every day -- because I know sometimes folks in this room, we don't always agree.  But we all agree that we care about our kids, and we care about their health and we care about what’s going on in their heads.  And this new initiative I think is one way this summer that we can all continue to come together to keep moving our communities and our kids forward. 

And as our dear friend, Senator Kennedy, used to say, all we have to do is ask.  And he was talking about Americans when it comes to service -- all we have to do is ask, and then provide the opportunity, because, as he said, most Americans are already willing to give.  They're willing to be a part.  They just need the opportunity.  So we’re giving folks that opportunity through this initiative.  We are asking.  We are asking in a very big way. 

So I want to thank you all again for the time that you put out for communities in your own home states.  The fact that you’ve taken the time to come here again -- once again, this year before the Congressional Picnic, means a great deal to us.  We are truly grateful for your leadership.  And we’re looking forward to having a fun picnic when this is all said and done.  Right?  It’s going to be good food.  So let’s get to work and then we can have some fun.  (Applause.) 

Thank you all so much for coming out.

1:39 P.M. EDT