Remarks by the First Lady at Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day Event

April 26, 2012

East Room

11:05 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  How are you guys doing?


MRS. OBAMA:  Wow, sounds like you’ve had a busy morning already, right?


MRS. OBAMA:  Tell me about some of the stuff you’ve done.  Just shout out.  All right, one at a time.  Stand up.  Whoever stands up —

CHILD:  Pastry chef!

MRS. OBAMA:  Pastry chef.

CHILD:  (Inaudible) when we got to check how much breath we had.

MRS. OBAMA:  You tested your breath?  (Laughter.)  Wow, we’ve never done that.  What did you do?

CHILD:  — park rangers.

MRS. OBAMA:  Park rangers.  That’s very cool.  I like that.  What else?  Yes.

CHILD:  We got to see a police car —

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, nice.  What’s in there?  I’ve never seen the inside.

CHILD:  Little shield things.

MRS. OBAMA:  Shield things.

CHILD:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, very cool.  Very cool.  What did you see?

CHILD:  We learned how important policemen are here around the White House.

MRS. OBAMA:  Absolutely.  We could not do what we do if it weren’t for the Secret Service and the police officers.  We love them dearly, and they do a great job, right?

All right, well, before we begin we’re going to ask questions.  I just want to welcome you guys to the White House.  This is one of my favorite days because, I don’t know, I love spending time with kids.  And you kids are very special because your parents are very special, or your grandparents.  I know we may have parents and grandparents.  But they do wonderful work here at the White House.  And we know that sometimes they work so hard that sometimes they come home late, or maybe they miss some of your activities because they’re working so hard.  And that can be tough, right?  It can be a little annoying, too.

So one of the things we want you to know is that we know that it’s not easy to have parents who are doing busy, important work.  But because of the work that they do, the country runs and things get done, and millions of people get help.  And because you guys handle your business — you’re doing well in school, and you’re staying out of trouble, and you’re listening and you’re helping out at home when things are busy — you’re helping your parents serve, too, and your grandparents.

So you guys are helping this country in very important ways.  And I don’t want you to ever take that for granted.  So we are grateful to you all for what you do to support your parents.  And that’s why I like to take the time and create this wonderful day so you get a better sense of what they’re doing when they’re not with you.  We’re taking care of them — at least we’re trying to — so that you understand what’s going on.  So we really appreciate you guys.  And we’re happy to have you here, and we hope you’ve had a good day.

So now I’m going to just take some questions, all right?  So, all right, here’s what we’re going to do:  We’ve got mics, and when you stand up I’m going to go from section to section.  So I’m going to take one person from here, one person from here, one person from here, and then I’m going to go back around, okay?  And tell me your name and how old you are.

Okay, we’ll start over here.  Okay, I see a bright green hand right here.  Young lady, yes.

CHILD:  My name is Madeleine (ph) and I’m 12.  Do I state where my mom works?

MRS. OBAMA:  If you know.

CHILD:  My mom works at Office of National Drug Control Policy.

MRS. OBAMA:  Nice.

CHILD:  And my question is, will you ever run for President?

MRS. OBAMA:  Absolutely not.  (Laughter.)  No.  Being President is a really hard job and it’s an important job.  And when my husband is running for President, we’re right in there; we’re serving, too.  And I think that once his terms are over, we’ll go on to do other important things — because there are so many ways that you can help this country and the world, even if you’re not President of the United States.

And I think one of the things you learn about yourself as you get older are what are your strengths and what are your interests.  And for me it’s other stuff that is not being the President.  So I probably won’t run.  But that’s a great question.

All right, we’re going to move to this section.  And I see a red jacket.  Young man, right there.

CHILD:  How do you like —

MRS. OBAMA:  Tell me your name.

CHILD:  Joseph.

MRS. OBAMA:  Stand up.

CHILD:  Joseph.

MRS. OBAMA:  What was that?

CHILD:  Joseph.

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes?  How old are you?

CHILD:  Eight.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s good to have you here, Joseph.  What is your question?

CHILD:  How do you like being the First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA:  I love it!  I really do.  And that’s the other thing — I’ve been First Lady.  This is the better job.  (Laughter.)  Because —

CHILD:  Is it a hard job?

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s very busy.  I have a lot to do, but I couldn’t call it hard, because I’m doing the things that I really love.  I get to spend this time with you all, number one.  And as much as I can I try to spend time with young people, and I love doing that.  And I’m working on helping kids eat healthy and be more active and working with military kids.  And I got to be on iCarly.  And so it would be hard for me to call this job hard.

I love what I do, and I love serving this country.  So it’s been fun.  Although, sometimes it gets tiring because you get really busy, and sometimes you just want to goof off and watch a little TV and not do anything, right?  Yes, I tell my kids that all the time.  They say — they wake up, they’re like, I’m tired, Mom.  I’m like, I’m tired, too.  Go to school.  (Laughter.)  Get over it, right?

All right.  Okay, let’s see, let’s see.  Oh, gosh, there are so many.  All right, this little one in the back.  You.  Yes, you, young lady.

CHILD:  My name —

MRS. OBAMA:  What’s — oh, go ahead.

CHILD:  My name is Danielle (ph), and today is my birthday and I’m turning eight.

MRS. OBAMA:  I heard about that.  Happy Birthday.

CHILD:  And my dad works at the military office.  And my question is, what do you like to do on your birthday?


MRS. OBAMA:  Aww.  What do I like to do?  That’s a very sweet question.  Does anybody else have a birthday here today?  All right, Danielle (ph) — okay, when we get finished we’re going to sing.  When we’re done, before I leave, we’re going to sing happy birthday, okay?  So we’ll do that last.  We’ll end with that, okay?  But happy birthday.

What do I like to do on my birthday?  I like to sleep late.  (Laughter.)  That’s the first thing.  So I try to make sure no one wakes me up until I’m ready to wake up.  And then I like to have a day where I can do exactly what I want to do, eat what I want to eat.  So I get to pick my meals.  And then my husband usually takes me out for dinner, and the girls — or — and we have a family dinner.  So I like to spend time with my family and just kind of relax and do a lot of nothing.  I know that’s hard for kids to understand, but when you get old like us old people, doing nothing is a really big gift — right, parents?  (Laughter.)  Nothing is — happy birthday!  (Laughter.)

Well, happy birthday, sweetie.

All right, here.  Okay, young man in the black and blue stripes.

CHILD:  When did you — oh, wait, sorry.  My name is William Metcalf (ph) and I’m 10 years old.  And my question is, when did you get Bo?

MRS. OBAMA:  We got Bo — it was probably — press, media, you guys know better than me.  (Laughter.)  It was — he’s three years old, and we got him in March of — like, two years ago.  He was eight months old when he came to us, so we’ve had him for close to three — he’ll be three in October.  That’s when his birthday is.  October birthday?  Yeah, yeah.  October!  A lot of October.

So we’ve — you’ve got an October birthday, too?  Great.  But we’ve had — he’ll be three in October, so he’s lived with us since he was eight months old.  And he’s awesome.  He’s an awesome dog, and I love him dearly.  Any of you have pets?  How many pet kids do we have?  Do you love your pets, too?


MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, we love our pets.  All right — you just remembered your pet?  Yeah, all right.  (Laughter.)  All right, we’ve got hands here.  All right, young lady — next to you — I know, I’m going to get to — yes.  You, in the red.

CHILD:  Okay.  My name is Madison Lewis (ph); my dad works for you.  And if you could change —

MRS. OBAMA:  What does he do?

CHILD:  Joining Forces.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I know who your dad is.  (Laughter.)

CHILD:  If you could change anything about the First Lady job, what would you do or what would you change?

MRS. OBAMA:  I don’t know that I’d change anything about it.  Sometimes, when the First — and it’s not just the First Lady but the President — but sometimes we can’t sneak out often on our own without security and motorcades and people with us, right?  It’s hard to sneak around and do what you want.  I’ve done it a couple of times.  But you know, one fantasy I have — and the Secret Service, they keep looking at me because they think I might actually do it — is to walk right out the front door and just keep walking.  (Laughter.)  Just go right over there and go into some shops, and stop and have some ice cream and — yeah, go shopping.

But I can’t do that.  I can’t just up and decide, I think I’m going to go for a walk and I am going to go for a — I’m going to walk to Georgetown.  So if I could change something, I’d be able to sneak around a little bit more.  But it causes people a lot of stress when I do that so I try not to.

All right, we’ve got this section here.  Oh gosh, this is so hard.  All right, young lady, right in the front with the red ribbons.  Yes.

CHILD:  My name is Alison (ph) and I’m 10.  What is your favorite part of being First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite part of being First Lady is spending time with kids.  You guys are funny, let me tell you.  I’ve had some of the best questions, some of the funniest questions come from kids.  And kids are just, they’re real — you guys are real honest.  So you either — if they don’t like you, you know right away.  It’s real clear.  It’s like, keep away from me.  But you guys are open and you’re curious and you’re still trying to figure things out.  So it’s a lot of fun to spend time.  And that’s when I do all my playing.  You see me jumping rope, and I’m going to play with some kids when I leave here.  We’re going to do some hula-hooping.  So you guys are fun.

All right, here, here, here.  All right, okay, I’m going to go in the back — I’m going to go in the back.  Young man with the cast — I see a cast on an arm.  We have an injured one here.  You have to tell me your name, age and what happened to your arm.

CHILD:  I’m Jacques Nissim (ph) and I’m 10 years old.  And I was playing soccer and I was at practice, and this kid on my team kicked the ball really hard when I was goalie.  And I stuck out my hand and the ball bent my arm back.

MRS. OBAMA:  Youch.

CHILD:  And my question was — and my dad works for the United States Trade Representatives and he tells me a lot about his job and he really likes it.

MRS. OBAMA:  Good.

CHILD:  Are you as big of a White Sox fan as your husband?  And did you congratulate Philip Humber after he threw the perfect game against the team.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, gosh.  (Laughter.)  Okay, the — no, I’m not as big a fan because I grew up a Cubs fan.  We’re a mixed marriage.  And people always wonder, well, why are you a Cubs fan, because we live on the South Side.  But I tell them, my dad was a Cubs fan from the time I was little.  And that’s one thing that he and I did — when I would come home from school, the Cubs would be playing; they’d usually be just in the third inning by the time I got home from school at 3:30 p.m., and José Cardenal would be third man up to bat, and we’d sit and we’d watch the game.  So there’s sort of a sentimental connection that I have with the Cubs because of my dad.  So I’m kind of always a Cubs fan.  Although as a Chicagoan, I love all of our teams.  We’re on record there.  (Laughter.)

And no, I didn’t call the guy who pitched the game.  No, I didn’t.  I saw that on SportsCenter but I usually stay out of the sports stuff.  I leave that to my husband.

All right, we’ve got a young lady in a pink shirt, hand up.  Yes.  Is that pink?

CHILD:  Yes.  My name is Maya (ph) and I’ll be 11 in eight days.

MRS. OBAMA:  Congratulations.

CHILD:  Thank you.  And my question is, what is the newest project you’re working on?

MRS. OBAMA:  Ooh, the newest project that I’m working on.  We just finished a tour for the first-year anniversary of Joining Forces, which your dad helps with.  And Joining Forces is the initiative we’re working on to help military families.  We want to make sure that other Americans who don’t have families in the military understand how much these families sacrifice so that their loved ones can serve.

So we’re really trying to rally the whole country around making sure that we’re aware of other military kids that may be in your lives, and understand how hard it must be for them to have a parent who has to be away — not just away, but fighting in a war.  Can you imagine how tough that would be and how scared they might be?  And a lot of times, military kids, they have to move often, because soldiers move — our troops, they move every couple of years, and their families have to move, too.  So the average military kid goes to seven or eight or nine schools over the course of their lifetime.

Do we have any military kids here?  You guys know the drill, right?  It’s not always easy.  But a lot of people don’t know what you go through because they’re — they don’t have families in the military, right?  So I want to make sure that other kids — all you kids who aren’t in the military and don’t understand it, that you’re a little bit more sympathetic; that you reach out to new kids in your communities and you find out — if there’s a new kid sitting in your class, help them.  Reach over, make a friend.  See how they’re doing.  Make sure that they feel like they’re a part of the school, a part of the community — asking them about themselves.  If they’re not somebody that you normally invite, invite them for a play date or for a party; kind of go out of your way to help them out.

So those are the kind of things that we’re working on.  And it makes me very happy to work on those issues.  So that’s the latest thing.  But thank you for asking.

All right, we’re going to go back over here.  All right.  Young man right in the front row, in the blue.  You — yes, you.

CHILD:  Would you ever want to move back to your old life?

MRS. OBAMA:  My old life?  I don’t know if that’s possible.  (Laughter.)  We still have our house in Chicago, and it’s there, and we go back and visit.  But who knows what — I don’t know what the future holds.  So one of the things I’ve learned growing up and being a grown-up is that you always look forward — you look to where you’re going to go, as opposed to looking back.  So we’re going to see how — what the future has for us.  Okay?  Does that make sense to you?  So I think more about what am I going to do in the future.

And who knows.  I’ve got two kids.  They’re going to be going to school.  They’re going to be going to college one day.  There’s a lot that’s going to be going on.  So I’m not sure.  I’m not sure whether the old life will be there.  But that’s a very profound question.  Thank you for that.

Okay, we’re right here.  All right, young man in the khaki jacket in the back.  Oh, yes.  (Laughter.)

CHILD:  My name is Reggie (ph), I’m 11 years old.  Actually, I have two questions.

MRS. OBAMA:  All right.

CHILD:  Aw, man.  Let’s go to the second one.  How many fruits and vegetables do you have in your garden?

MRS. OBAMA:  Ooh, how many?  Ooh, I don’t know the exact number.  But we have — it’s a vegetable garden, so everything in there is a vegetable.  So we have lots of lettuce — different kinds of lettuce.  We just planted a few varieties of potato.  So we have lots of herbs that you use for cooking.  We have string beans.  We have snow peas.  We’ve got broccoli.  We have cauliflower.  We’ve got yams.  I mean, it’s stuff like that.  So it is a vegetable garden.

And the fruits that we have — we’re still trying to work on getting our fruit bushes.  But we have some berry bushes.  We have a fig tree that’s starting to produce some figs.  We have some — what else?  We’re thinking about planting some fruit trees, but we’re going to see whether that will work.

So that’s what we have over there.  We have some mushroom logs.  Have you all ever seen a mushroom log?  You know, where mushrooms — they’re like fungus; they grow out of like damp, dark places.  We have a couple of logs that produce mushrooms.  And we’ve got bees.  We’ve got a beehive over by the —

So you said you had two questions.  Do you remember the second one?  All right.

Q    How much do you love gardening?  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I really enjoy gardening.  I wasn’t a gardener before I got here.  And I technically — I wouldn’t call myself a gardener because I have a lot of people who help me.  It’s very different when you have a garden and you’ve got 12 people who can help you weed, and volunteers who come over all the time.  And I feel like it’s not my garden, it’s the White House’s garden.

But I’ve learned to — I’ve learned that I love it more than I thought.  When I was little, I used to help one of my aunts.  We lived with one of my aunts, and she loved to garden.  And I would help her weed and plant flowers.  We never had a vegetable garden, but everyone had to help out.  And I used to like being out in the sun with the water hose and the sprinklers.  But then I started getting allergies and I started sneezing a lot.  And my mom would send me in the house because she was tired of seeing me sneeze.  I don’t sneeze as much anymore.

But I enjoy it.  I do.  It’s fun being out, playing in the dirt and in the sun and watching stuff grow.  It’s really cool.

All right, we’re over here.

MS. JARVIS:  Ma’am, we have time for one more question.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, Kristen.  All right, we’ve got time for one more question.  This is — we’re going to do more than one, though.  All right, green jacket, right in the front.  I know, I always —

CHILD:  My name is Diego (ph) and I’m eight.  How big is the White House?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, gosh.  It’s really big.  Jeremy, where are you?  You have the square footage?  It’s huge.  Have you guys taken a tour?


MRS. OBAMA:  So what did you see?  Did you see everything on this floor?


MRS. OBAMA:  So this is the — did you go to the West Wing, too?  And have you been to the East Wing?


MRS. OBAMA:  All right, so you’ve been pretty much everywhere on the main floors.  So you’ve seen how big that is.  But this is what’s called the State Floor.  And then above us, two floors up, is where we live.  That’s our house.  That’s like our — the Private Residence.  It’s where Malia and Sasha have their rooms, where we eat dinner, where we — so there are two more floors that are the same width as the State Floor that go up, okay?  And we have a gym, and there are guest rooms if we have visitors.  And grandma lives on the third floor and she has a couple of rooms where she lives.  And there are places where the kids watch TV.  So all that is upstairs.  So that’s like our house.  So this is more the official place.  We don’t hang out here during the day, but when we have important guests and we have dinners and we have big parties and there are press conferences and things like that, that happens down here.

So you’ve pretty much seen all of the White House except for the residence.  And did you guys — when you cooked, did you cook — did you go downstairs in the kitchen?


MRS. OBAMA:  All right, so there’s lower levels, too, and there’s a kitchen here where the chefs cook.  It’s a bigger kitchen but it’s not as big as you would think.  There’s a bowling alley — yeah.  You’ve been to the bowling alley?  So there’s a bowling alley down there.  There’s a place where the florist — there’s a florist shop here.  And then there’s a bunch of stuff that’s electronic stuff, engineering stuff that’s way down there.  There’s a dentist office here, did you know that?  A dentist office.  So it’s got a little dental chair.  Stuff like — there’s a doctor’s office here.  Did you guys see the doctor’s office here?


MRS. OBAMA:  But it’s all in this space.  So the White House is as big as the space that you walked except there are some more floors down and a couple of more floors up.  Does that help you?

All right, okay.  All right, all right, all right, all right.  We have a pretty headband, redhead — yes, you.

CHILD:  Hi, my name is Brianna (ph) and I’m eight years old.  And my question is, how hard was it to be a lawyer when you were a little girl?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, how hard was it to be a lawyer?  Well, I didn’t know I wanted to be a lawyer until I went to college.  So you know the path — the educational path:  You go to grammar school.  How many people are in grammar school?  Kindergarten, elementary school — I don’t know what you guys call it — before eighth grade.  Then you go to high school.  Then after high school, college.  And how many years do you go to college usually?  Four years.  Excellent.

CHILD:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  What is that?

CHILD:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Four or five; if you’re on the five year plan it could be five.  (Laughter.)  Parents would probably rather have you did it in four, but there’s no — it depends on what you’re studying.

And then after college, then you go to graduate school.  So if you want to study something special.  So you can go to med school.  You can go to law school.  You can go to business school.  You can go on to get a PhD and become a professor.  All that happens after college.

So when I was in college, that’s when I had to decide whether I wanted to go on to graduate school, and I decided I would be a lawyer.  But before then, when I was a little girl, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician.  And I just picked that like kids pick — like right now, when people tell you what you want to be, you have an answer, right?  Sometimes you do.  But I had an answer.  But it really wasn’t an answer because I was too young to know what I wanted to do.

So going to law school is a lot of work.  It takes a lot of work and you’ve got to read and you’ve got to study all the time.  So it takes a lot of work if you want to be a lawyer.

All right, I’m going to do two more questions.  Okay.  All right, all right, all right.  Yellow sweater, in the middle.  And then we’ll have the last one here.

CHILD:  Hi, my name is Lily Lazarus (ph) and I’m 12 years old.  My question is, my mom was diagnosed with diabetes when I was five, and what are you going to do to help childhood obesity and diabetes?

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, that’s — thank you for that question.  That’s why I talk so much about health and making sure that kids are healthy because there are some types of diabetes that are preventable.  Some are hereditary — that means you’re born with it and there’s not much you can do about it.

But there’s something called Type II Diabetes that’s directly linked to what kind of food you eat.  And if you’re eating healthy foods, you’re less likely to deal with those kind of issues.  And being a diabetic is a tough thing.  I mean, for kids, it’s sometimes kind of hard to think about what does that mean if you’ve never had it.  But you have to take insulin shots and you have to really watch what you eat, and it can be — it’s a pretty serious disease.

And to know that it’s a disease that you can prevent just by eating more fruits and vegetables and getting exercise, wouldn’t you guys — don’t you guys think it would be easier to eat right and run around than to be sick and have to worry about your health?  And the reason why it’s important for kids to learn those habits — because those are habits, right?  If you get used to eating vegetables and you get used to incorporating fruit into your diet as a kid, you’re more likely to do that when you’re an adult.  So the habits that we’re hoping you develop now at your age will be ones that you carry on into adulthood, and they’ll be ones that you can teach your kids.  So that you know, having dessert and cake and fast food, that’s fun; everybody enjoys that, but you just can’t do it every day.  You’ve got to balance it out.

And the more — when you learn that earlier, it just becomes easier to do.  So that’s one of the reasons why we have Let’s Move.  And that’s why that initiative for me is so important, because we’re going to change the health not just for kids now but for generations to come.  And hopefully you guys can all help be my ambassadors to good health.  And starting at home in your own houses — don’t turn your nose up when the vegetables are on the plate.  Just eat them.  Just eat them.  You promise?  Hello?


MRS. OBAMA:  Eat your vegetables.  Eat your fruit.  And exercise.  Move your bodies; don’t sit in front of the TV all the time.  Do you hear me?  Get up.  Stand up and move.  Will you do that?  Like that — just like that.  (Laughter.)

All right, the last question.  All right, purple shirt.  I know.  Last question.

CHILD:  Hi, my name is CJ.

MRS. OBAMA:  Whoa, deep voice.  (Laughter.)

CHLD:  Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  What’s going on?  How have you been?

CHILD:  My dad is a — works as a butler.

MRS. OBAMA:  I know.  You’ve gotten taller.

CHILD:  Thank you.  (Laughter.)  And my question to you is, how do you feel about working here?  Like, is it good?

MRS. OBAMA: What does it feel like?

CHILD:  Yeah.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s great.  And it’s great because of people like your dad.  I mean, your dad, I see him every day as well as many of the staff people here who help the house run.  And everybody is so nice.  They’re funny.  They’re nice to hang out with.  I love them all, everybody who works here.

And that makes our lives easy, which is why we love you guys.  Because I know your dad is here sometimes late, sometimes unexpectedly late because stuff goes on and he’s calling in and he’s saying, I’ve got to stay late, I’ve got to go in on the weekends, something changed.  And he’s doing it because that — is that you, too?  And he’s helping us.  And you all are helping us.  So it is one of the best experiences.

And I didn’t expect it.  I didn’t know what to expect when we moved into the White House.  I thought, we’re moving into an old house, and people have lived here, and what’s it like?  Is it going to feel like home?  It is going to feel like — but everybody here feels like family.  And they treat us with the same respect and love.  And I feel like these kids, they — that you kids are a part of that.  So we are grateful.

All right?  Yes.

CHILD:  What kind of charities do you support?

MRS. OBAMA:  What kind of — in this position it’s difficult to support just one or two charities.  But we do tons of work with charities — millions.  Like things — organizations like the Fisher House, who provide wonderful places for military families to live while their loved one is recuperating at a military hospital.  If they have to go through surgeries, Fisher House is a really beautiful place where families can stay.  That’s one organization.

The Red Cross has done — we’ve done great stuff with them, with the USO.  I mean, I could go on and on.  I mean, we work with many, many non-profit organizations.  So I couldn’t say that there is one single one that I work with.  We work with tons of them.  But that’s a great question.

So now we have a birthday treat.  Come on up, sweetie.  It’s a birthday.  Can I have a hug?  Happy birthday.  Are you ready for a “Happy Birthday” song?  All right, one, two, three, everybody.  (Children sing “Happy Birthday.”)  (Applause.)

All right, you guys, I’ve got to go.  Thank you.  You guys were awesome.  Awesome!  Awesome!