Remarks by the First Lady at "Let's Move Outside" event with Senator Harry Reid
Red Rock Canyon
Las Vegas, Nevada
2:45 P.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Woohoo! (Laughter and applause.) Oh, my goodness, I am just delighted to be here. This is beautiful. And you notice, kids, how quiet it can be outside? We’re outside! I live in the city. It is never this quiet outside.
It is beautiful. This is just a perfect place for the launch of this new initiative.
But let me begin by thanking -- doing my thank you: First, to Senator Reid, not just for his kind introduction but all of the wonderful work he’s done to move this country forward. He’s just been a tremendous asset, not just to my husband, but to the country and to all of you kids. You know, everybody hears about what the President does, but Presidents can’t do anything if they don't have a good team. And Senator Reid is a member of that good team. So we’re just grateful to have him onboard. (Applause.)
And I have to thank Representative Titus for her tireless advocacy for the people of Nevada in Congress. She’s a member of the team and is doing a terrific job.
Assistant Secretary Suh, for everything that she’s doing along, with the folks in her agency to really preserve and protect places like this -- Red Rock Canyon here in Nevada and all across the country.
I also want to thank Nevada State -- Nevada State Controller Kim Wallin and State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford as well for their leadership. (Applause.) Where are they? Where are you? There you are. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your support and your work.
And I want to particularly acknowledge the young people in the back -- (applause) -- because we’re really here for you guys today. All of this is for you, just like all these parks are for you today. We’re here for you. And we’re going to be doing a little fun stuff together in a little bit -- a little hiking, a little something. I’ve got cold, so you have to bear with me today. And I hear we’re going to learn a little something about how to do a “rock scramble.” I don't know what that is. Sounds scary. (Laughter.) But I’m looking forward to it.
And then all of them are going to be sworn in as official “Let’s Move Outside” Junior Rangers, which I think is pretty exciting. (Applause.) So you guys in the back hold the great honor of being the first to launch this program all across the country! (Applause.) Yes! (Applause.)
We are here because of you. We want every child in this country to have opportunities like this -- to get outdoors and to get fit and to lead active lives right from the beginning. And you guys are lucky to have access to places like these -- and not every kid does.
Experts, as others have said, recommend that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy. That's 60 minutes, an hour, every day.
And while today that may seem like a lot, if adults here can just think back to when we were growing up, back then an hour of just vigorous activity was nothing, because we didn’t call it “activity.” It wasn’t required. We called it “play.” (Laughter.) We had recess, we had gym class at school, and when we got home in the afternoons, our parents didn’t want to be bothered with us so they kicked us outside. In fact, they told us not to come back inside. (Laughter.) So we could run around for another hour before dinner. They were really just trying to make us sleepy. (Laughter.) But all of that was really good for us.
But today, at a time of a lot of belt-tightening and budget cuts, unfortunately it’s gym class and recess and after-school sports that often are the first things to go. And too many of our kids end up spending way too much time inside in front of the TV, playing video games. Can I get -- do you hear from the parents? It’s too much! It’s too much.
In fact, a study just released by the Centers for Disease Control found that -- and this is amazing -- only 17 percent of high school students reported meeting the recommended hour-a-day requirement. That's only 17 percent of high school students in our country today.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that today nearly one third of our children in this country are overweight or obese. You know, we’re just not giving them the chance. And that's one in three. And that's a lot. That's way too many. It’s more than what it was when all of us were growing up. Things just weren’t like that. That means that these kids are at greater risk for obesity-related conditions like heart disease and diabetes and cancer. I mean, this is the fate that we’re handing over to our kids.
And it’s not just a health crisis, as Senator Reid said. It’s an economic crisis. We are spending nearly $150 billion a year to treat obesity-related illnesses. And if we don't act now, if these kids now grow up to be adults, then that number is just going to continue to go up.
And none of us wants that kind of future for our kids. We don't. And we definitely don't want that kind of future for our country.
So instead of just talking about the problem, which we -- a lot of -- we can do a lot of talking, and worrying and wringing our hands, we really need to get moving. And that's why about a year or so ago -- I’m losing track of time because we’ve been doing this -- but we launched “Let’s Move,” which is the big nationwide campaign with the single goal of ending childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today would grow up at a healthy weight. It sounds so simple, but this goal has to be generational and it has to be big.
And we’ve spent the last year or so working on a number of different fronts. We need to get more information to parents so that they can make the right choices for their kids. They have to have the information. They have to have access to affordable healthy foods. We have to work on that. We have to work closely with our schools to make sure that there are healthy choices in the classroom, because many of our kids are getting most of their calories at school, which is why we need to get the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill passed, because that piece of legislation is going to go a long way to changing and improving the quality of foods in our -- that our kids are getting at school.
But more importantly and something that we focused on a lot, now that it’s summer time, is that we need to substantially increase the amount of physical activity that our kids are getting not just in school but outside of school, as well, and that's why I am very excited about the launch of this program, “Let’s Move Outside.” Very clever, right? “Let’s Move Outside” -- I love it. (Laughter.)
And it’s a collaborative effort with the Bureau of Land Management, with National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. And as you’ve heard, we just want to encourage kids to use the resources that are available to them. I mean, that's part of the point of this, is that activity doesn’t have to cost a thing.
We have access in this country to some of the greatest parks and recreation facilities in the country, and it’s all free. And as Rhea said, it’s all yours, guys. This stuff belongs to you. And my family and I, we’ve tried to go every summer to some of the parks. We went to Yellowstone, we went to Asheville, we did some hiking, and I think -- I’m hoping, if they treat us right, they’ll let us go somewhere else this summer. (Laughter.) But you never know. (Laughter.)
And it’s really a lot of fun. And it’s not just a great way to get exercise. It’s also a phenomenal way to come together as a family and spend some time together without spending a whole lot of money.
So in addition to this part of this program, we’re upgrading the Junior Ranger Program, because there’s always been Junior Rangers. I’ve met several of them all over the country, but we’re upgrading it to encourage more of our kids to be more physically active. Our wildlife refuges and conservation areas, our national parks and forests, and historic sites -- these are ours, and we have to make use of them. And our agencies have just been phenomenal, rallying around to make this possible.
I want to thank everyone, particularly our not-so-junior rangers who have played a really important part. And my kids have had direct experience with the grown-up rangers. They are knowledgeable. Many of them are doing this as their second or third career. Their stories are phenomenal in so many ways. These are people who love this country. They love these parks. They want to make sure that our kids learn and they pass on these traditions. And we’re grateful for all of you, because we couldn’t do this on the ground without your enthusiasm and your knowledge. So I want us to give our not-so-junior rangers a hand, as well. (Applause.)
But in the end, our overall goal for “Let’s Move Outside” is to really get our kids active so that they make it a habit of moving around and seeing the activity they need not as a chore but as a fun way to explore our country and to do some things they haven’t done.
So with that, I'll stop talking, because this program is called “Let’s Move,” right? (Laughter.) So we need to get moving. All right? You guys ready? You ready to scramble up a rock? All right! Thank you, guys. Thanks so much. (Applause.)
2:55 P.M. PDT