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The White House

Remarks by the President and First Lady at a "United We Serve" Service Event


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                             June 25, 2009


Fort McNair
Washington, D.C.

10:14 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, thank you everybody.  Thank you, Michael.  I want to thank Colonel Laura Richardson, the Ft. McNair Base Commander, for her service and for helping make this day possible.  It is so good to see all of you here.  We said we'd do it, right?  (Applause.)  And we're here.  (Applause.)

A little while ago we did some other service together.  We were able to work at the food bank and get some bags packed, and now we're doing this wonderful work for the children of our servicemen and women who are going to get to go to camp.  And I think we've got some great letters, good healthy snacks, a Bo baseball card, which -- (laughter) --

THE PRESIDENT:  Very important.

MRS. OBAMA:  -- is very important.  (Laughter and applause.)  And our hope is that we can get 15,000 of these backpacks packed today.  And it's just a thrill to see you.  We've brought our daughters.  Malia and Sasha are going to be here helping out.  And it's just wonderful to see you all here again. 

There's so much that we can do.  This is a part of one of the efforts we've launched -- actually, I helped to launch on Monday -- "United We Serve," where we're asking every single American to think about a way that they can serve.  I joined Maria Shriver in San Francisco when we did -- helped to build a play lot, and today we're continuing the service here with all of you. 

And the hope is that you go back to your home states, to your communities, and you encourage your family, friends, constituents to find ways to continue to serve.  And I am just so delighted to see all of you all here. 

And once we get through with our work today, then we'll be able to have a little fun.  We've got a great picnic planned, a little luau, with some great hula dancers and tiki torches and all that good stuff.  (Applause.)

So you guys have a great time.  And it is my honor to introduce my husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well, first of all, it is great to see all of you here today.  I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here participating, all the families and young people who are here.  I obviously have to thank my wife, Michelle Obama, who has spent much of her adult life focused on service.  (Applause.)  Now, she understands that nothing is more powerful than when you enlist the skill and talent and passion of the American people on behalf of helping others.  And she's been doing that all her life, and she's doing just a great job as First Lady in making that happen.

I want to thank all the men and women here at Fort McNair, and all those who serve our country under our proud flag.  We're grateful to each and every one of you.  (Applause.)  Those Americans in uniform, it's clear the nature of their service.  I think sometimes what's forgotten is when one person in the family serves in our Armed Forces, that means the entire family is serving.  And it's very gratifying to see all of you committed to helping to put together some backpacks and care packages for military families all across the country.  This is an issue that Michelle has taken extraordinary interest in during the course of our campaign.  She would meet with military families and discover that, despite all the things that government may want to do, there are still a lot of holes and a lot of gaps that need to be filled in terms of giving the support to our military families that's necessary, and that's where you come in.

So we're very proud of them, but we're very proud of you.  And we always want to remember that serving our country is not just something that we should expect our members of our Armed Forces to do, that's something that we should expect all of us as citizens to do. 

On Monday, we launched "United We Serve," our summer service initiative.  It's going to run all the way through our National Day of Service on September 11th.  We want to ask every American to take some time out this summer to do something for others.  Parents, take your kids -- they're going to have fun, they're going to be in sports camps, they're going to be watching TV and playing video games.  Once a week, take them down -- whether it's to a soup kitchen or to volunteer on a community project -- teach them what it means to be a real citizen.  You'll find that actually the kids love it, and it's going to make a lasting impression on them.  And if all of us are doing that this summer, then we're going to make this country stronger.  We're working hard, and members of Congress are working really hard right now, to make our government work for people, but government can only do so much.  Ultimately the strength of America doesn't come from Capitol Hill, it doesn't come from the White House.  It comes from the grassroots, and that's what all of you are about.

So I appreciate you.  I hope you guys have some great fun today.  I notice the air conditioning is on in here, which -- (laughter) -- sometimes with some of these service projects, you got to change shirts at the end of the day.  So enjoy yourselves, and I hope I get a chance to say thank you personally and shake some hands before the day is done.  All right?  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

Oh, one other thing that I wanted to mention -- and since we've got a lot of press here -- sometimes people want to be involved in service but don't know how to get involved in service.  And so what I want to do is just remind people, if you go to -- -- that will give you an entire toolkit for how you can sign up for service in your communities.  So there's no excuses.  And you can find the service project that's right for you.  If you care about animals, you can find a shelter that helps with stray animals.  If you care about tutoring kids or you've got an education background, you'll be able to find something that allows you to use your particular skills.

So get on, and that's how you're going to be identify -- going to be able to identify the service project that's right for you and your family.  All right?  Thank you, everybody.  Have fun.  (Applause.)

10:21 A.M. EDT