Remarks by the First Lady at "Let's Move" School Visit with Olympians
River Terrace Elementary School
11:3 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, this is pretty cool, don’t you think?
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, right here in your school, in your Multipurpose Room, you’ve got Olympians and Paralympians and reporters and teachers. And everybody is here because of you. Isn’t that pretty nice?
MRS. OBAMA: But, you know, one thing I want you all to know about these magnificent men and women that I’m standing up with is that, you know, if you heard in their story, each of them had to work hard and overcome something to get where they are. It wasn’t easy.
With Hannah, she fell the first time out, as she said; had a very -- finished almost last. Can you imagine that? Has anybody ever finished last in something and really felt like, “I just am not good at this and I never want to do it again”? Right? Well, just imagine, what if Hannah had said that after her first efforts at the Olympics? She wouldn’t be here today with a Gold Medal. But instead of feeling defeated by that, she just worked a little harder, and now she’s a Gold Medalist.
Alana was a skier before she lost the use of her legs, and lost the use of her legs while skiing, right? She had a bad accident and lost the use of her legs. Now, she could have just said, “You know what, I’m just done.” Right? But instead, she not only kept doing her sport, but she got so strong that she can compete and win a medal.
And Shani -- you know, Shani didn’t grow up in a neighborhood where anybody talked about speed skating, because we’re both South Side Chicago, right, Shani? (Laughter.) South Side, South Side. (Laughter.) But we didn’t grow up with speed skating. How did you even know about speed skating? We had ice, but we didn’t have speed skating. So there was nothing in his life’s path that would have predicted that he could take up a sport that he didn’t grow up watching, right, and then become the best in the world at it. The best in the world.
And then Heath, as he told you, he is a true hero. He went off to war to fight for our country, and lost his legs as a result. Now, as he said, he didn’t win a Gold Medal in the Paralympic Games, but he’s got the best metal in the room. And we have to be really proud of what these men and women have done and the fact that they care so much about you all and your health that they wanted to take the time out to come here today to River Terrace.
So let’s give them all a big round of applause. (Applause.)
But another one of the reasons we’re here today is because I got to meet your principal, Principal Foster, a few months ago, actually, when we started talking about exercise and nutrition. We went to another school in the area, and she was there. We talked about planting a garden and improving our schools so that all of our kids were eating healthier and getting more exercise. And I was so impressed at the work that she has been doing here with you all -- the innovation and the work that she’s doing with all the other teachers and all the parents -- that I wanted to make sure we came to see you all.
I love kids, as your principal said, and I care a lot about kids. I’ve got two little girls of my own. And everyday I am worrying about whether they’re going to grow up healthy and happy and smart and whether they’re going to have a good life, right? And all of us, all of us grown-ups, we feel the same way about you.
And one of the things I did -- the very first -- one of the very first things I did when I became First Lady and we moved into the White House was that we planted this wonderful garden. I don't know if you guys have heard about our Kitchen Garden, and hopefully one day you’ll come to the White House and visit it, but we worked with a bunch of kids in the area, and we saw how enthusiastic they became over the notion of planting their own fruits and vegetables and then eating it, right?
And we sort of got this idea that maybe if these kids were excited about it and would change the way they eat because they were more involved and we were all working together, then maybe we could do it for every kid in the country.
So we started this program, this campaign, called “Let’s Move,” and that's what the t-shirts that some of your classmates are wearing are about. And hopefully you all will get t-shirts. But “Let’s Move” is a campaign to try to make sure that kids grow up eating healthy, getting enough exercise so that you all are strong enough to be Olympians or to go to college or do whatever you want in life.
And our campaign is trying to get everybody to do a few things. We want your parents to have better information about the food you need. We want to make sure that your schools are serving healthier food. We want to make sure that you live in communities where your parents have access to really healthy foods that they can afford. And the last and most important thing is that we want you all to do what -- what’s the name of the campaign? Let’s --
MRS. OBAMA: So we want you all to move, because as all of the Paralympic and Olympic athletes have said, is that eating right and moving your bodies is the beginning of everything for you all, because if you’re not healthy and you can’t run and you can’t move, what can you do, right?
But you need good habits now, right? You need to know that you’ve got to eat vegetables, even though some vegetables don't taste good. You’ve got to drink lots of water and not a whole lot of soda. You can’t have snacks all of the time. They’re good sometimes, but you can’t eat them all the time.
That's what “Let’s Move” is all about. The whole country is working for you all so that you’re learning different habits. Right?
MRS. OBAMA: So one of the big things we’re doing on the “Let’s Move” part is that the President -- you know this guy, the President of the United States?
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, well, he’s going to be issuing some really cool awards for kids. And they’re new awards as part of his Fitness Challenge. And what he wants to see you all do is commit to doing exercise everyday five days a week. And if you can do that and move your bodies for about 60 minutes or so, you’re going to get an award. Maybe you get to come to the White House.
And I hope that you all are all competing for this award, right, because we’re going to do stuff on the South Lawn, we’re going to have fun all summer, all throughout the year, but we need you guys to move, and we’re going to need you to get your parents to help you move, too. Right?
You know how with the -- what’s your minute called --
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: The “Jamming Minute.”
MRS. OBAMA: -- the “Jamming Minute” we’re getting ready to do -- the most fun is watching your teachers do it, too. Isn’t that fun watching them jam -- we’re all going to jam together? Well, we want you to get your parents helping you get these awards. Can you all promise me that?
MRS. OBAMA: And I need you to promise me a few things, because we can’t get this “Let’s Move” campaign going without you all. We need you all. You all are at the center of everything. So we’re going to need you to make some promises. Will you make some promises for me?
MRS. OBAMA: Will you promise to try to eat as healthy as you can all the time?
MRS. OBAMA: Will you promise me that you will eat fruits and vegetables everyday?
MRS. OBAMA: And that you’ll try new foods? Even if you don't like them, you’ll try them?
MRS. OBAMA: And that you won’t eat as much sweets and chips? Will you not eat so many of them; eat less of those?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, yes. (Laughter.) That's always the tough one. Tough for us, too.
And will you all promise me that you’ll make sure that when you’re at home that you turn off the TV every now and then and just move, right?
MRS. OBAMA: Dance? Jump rope?
MRS. OBAMA: How many people have a dog, a pet? Run around with your dog. How many people can hula hoop? Do the hula hoop. How many people can shoot a basket? Shoot a basket. How many people can do a push-up? Try a push-up. How many people can do jumping jacks? Jumping jacks.
So that means when you go home, right, after you finish your homework, before you turn on the TV, turn on the radio and move. Will you promise me that? Everyday. Everyday. Will you all promise?
MRS. OBAMA: All right, well, then, let’s get moving. Let’s do our “Jamming Minute.” Are we ready to go?
MRS. OBAMA: All right.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: First Lady, Mrs. Obama, in the back of the room we have our nurse and we have our office staff --
MRS. OBAMA: What, you think we need a nurse? (Laughter.)
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Well, she --
MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on with the “Jamming Minute” -- (laughter) -- that we need medical assistance? (Laughter.)
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: She leads the “Jamming Minute” every day.
MRS. OBAMA: All right, all right.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: So I will turn the floor over to her. We’ll listen.
MRS. OBAMA: We’re ready. We’re ready to jam.
(The students participate in the “Jamming Minute.”)
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Thank you, boys and girls. Let’s give them a hand. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: All right, so are we going to do some -- are the kids going to do some --
MS. NICHOLS: So now, you guys, I loved all those exercises. Those are fun, huh?
MS. NICHOLS: I think my favorite was cross the bridge. So now what we’re going to do is us Olympic and Paralympic athletes are going to run you through one of our favorite exercises. So Hannah is going to pick her favorite, Shani will pick his, Heath will pick his favorite, and I'll do mine, okay?
MRS. OBAMA: All right.
MS. NICHOLS: You guys ready?
MS. NICHOLS: Who do you guys want to start?
MS. NICHOLS: Hannah!
MR. DAVIS: I heard Hannah.
MRS. OBAMA: Wasn’t clear. (Laughter.)
(The Olympians and Paralympians lead exercises.)
MRS. OBAMA: Let’s see if the kids have any questions for the Olympians before we go. Sorry -- off-script. (Laughter.) You guys -- what, are you guys up for taking some questions from the little people?
All right, Principal Foster, you’re in charge.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Okay, Samson Bell (ph), please stand up. Speak loud and proud and ask the First Lady your question.
MRS. OBAMA: Or any of the Olympians.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Or any of the Olympians.
Q What was it like when you first started to speed skate?
MR. FITTS: Would you mind repeating the question?
Q What was it like when you first started to speed skate?
MRS. OBAMA: You got that, Alan? (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS: Well, that's a good question. When I first started speed skating, it was -- I had to start kind of from the ground up. I saw everyone around me, all the older skaters, so fast, and the only thing I wanted to do was try to be like them some day, so I had to work very hard the days that I had practice, which was on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then of course all those miles I ran before school. So got the endurance right.
But it was very challenging. It didn’t come as easy as it may seem now if you watched speed skating on TV. I’ve been skating for over 21 years of my life. I started when I was six years old, so it was a long time -- that it took a lot of dedication and hard work, as well as a lot of focus, to get to where I’m at now. But it was not easy. Very difficult.
MRS. OBAMA: There’s a mic. Get the mic!
Q Shani Davis, have you ever had a TV show on speed skating?
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, Shani. (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS: Speed skating has a big audience in Europe, and I actually had some documentaries made on me a few years back and even before these Olympics. And actually I think 800,000 people watched it. So the answer of your question is kind of yes and kind of no. But maybe some day. You just got to ask for it, and maybe people will get the good idea and make that happen. Good job. Would you watch it if I had a speed skating TV show?
MR. DAVIS: Okay, that’s good. Thank you.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Christian Davis Gooding, Jr. (ph), what’s your question?
Q Michelle Obama, what do you think you would do to get everybody in the “Let’s Move” program?
MRS. OBAMA: Okay, that's a good question: What would I do to get everybody involved in the “Let’s Move” program? I'd do sort of what I’m doing now. I'd ask everybody to help, because it’s going to take everybody. It’s going to take parents, it’s going to take teachers and principals, it’s going to take the people who make the food that you all eat to make it healthier, it’s going to take all our athletes -- because it’s not just the Paralympians and the Olympians here who are helping. These guys have committed to go help us spread the word, along with a lot of athletes from Major League Baseball and National Basketball League and folks who play professional soccer.
But the most important people that we need are all of you all, because ultimately, as all the athletes said, these decisions are yours to make, right? I mean, you make the decision about what you eat and how you move, right? So ultimately it’s going to be up to all of you all to make good decisions that will help you for the rest of your lives. Okay?
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Okay, Karan Foster (ph). No relation, just saying. Karan Foster back here.
Q Alana Nichols, what did it feel like to ski without your legs?
MS. NICHOLS: That’s a good question. As Michelle told you guys, I was a snowboarder before my accident. And when I lost my legs, what happened was I broke my back, and my back -- the bones in my back went through my spinal chord, which is the way that your brain communicates with your legs. So when my bones went through that spinal chord, my brain couldn’t tell my legs how to work anymore, and that's why I’m in a chair.
And the first time I went skiing was really frustrating. I fell down every time. I stood back up -- I sat back up, rather; fell down; and I struggled to get back up; and I fell down again. And I just kept wanting to get better. And every time I was doing it, I got just a little bit better. And so I thought, well, maybe if I just keep doing it, I'll get really good. And that's exactly what happened.
So the first time I tried skiing, it wasn’t very easy, but it got better. And eventually I was able to get really good, and then it was a lot of fun because I quit falling. And now I get to do what I love and I get to go to the Paralympics and win medals sometimes.
So whatever you want to do, just keeping working at it and you’ll get better at it.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Amber Brown (ph).
Q Michelle Obama, do you think you can get a TV show called “Let’s Move” so people could move with you on TV?
MRS. OBAMA: Let me ask another: Do you think if you saw it on TV, you guys would do it more?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, there you go. TV show it is. Katie? (Laughter.)
How much more time? How are we doing on time? Okay, we got one more, Principal.
PRINCIPAL FOSTER: Okay, I don’t want to ignore the kids on stage. Tayana (ph)? Make it a good one.
Q Mrs. Obama, what kind of sport are you engaged in?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, I love sports. I love sports. Okay, so right now I love to play tennis. I try to play it as much as I can. I work out every day. Every day. Every single day. I run on the treadmill. I lift weights. The President loves basketball. And sometimes I play, but I don't know about basketball.
And I like to ski. We did some skiing this year. I’m getting a little bit better. Can do some green slopes and blue slopes.
MRS. OBAMA: Maybe next year. (Laughter.) So I like all kinds of sports. But tennis is probably one of my favorite sports.
All right, you guys. Thank you.
12:00 P.M. EDT