July 23, 2013

First Lady sets the record straight: "I'm not a treat hater"

First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to get kids -- and adults -- to eat healthy -- has earned her accolades, as well as criticism that she's got something against dessert.

So even as she addressed childhood obesity, she sought to set the record straight Tuesday at an event in New Orleans, a city accustomed to indulgences.

"Treats, children, are an important part of childhood. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a treat hater," Obama said at the National Council of La Raza's 2013 Annual Conference. "They matter for adults as well."

Obama said she eats a balanced diet and works out "every single day of the week with very few exceptions." But, she added, "While I am here in New Orleans today, everyone understand: There is no way I am leaving this city without a good meal. No way. Not happening."

Speaking to the Hispanic group, Obama noted nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in the U.S. are overweight or obese and that nearly 50 percent are on track to develop diabetes.

"While food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death," she said. "So we need to step up. We need to own this as a serious problem in our communities."

July 22, 2013

The First Family offers congrats to the new royal parents

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on "the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child."

The first couple -- themselves the parents of two daughters -- said they wish the royals "all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings." They said the child -- a baby boy and potential king -- "enters the world at a time of promise and opportunity for our two nations. Given the special relationship between us, the American people are pleased to join with the people of the United Kingdom as they celebrate the birth of the young prince."

And Michelle Obama sent a personal note:

July 02, 2013

First Ladies dish on life in the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama joined her predecessor, Laura Bush, at a summit for African first ladies in Tanzania, commiserating about life in the fishbowl that is the White House. They agreed that the first ladies perch offered a unique perch for speaking out.

Moderator Cokie Roberts opened with a suggestion that the session between the two ladies had prompted the two presidents to also get together -- they appeared at a solemn wreath laying to honor victims of a 1998 embassy bombing.

"They're learning from us as women," Michelle Obama said.

Roberts noted that Martha Washington wrote to her niece in her first year at the White House that she often felt like "Chief State Prisoner," an observation both agreed to -- to a point.

"There are prison elements to it," Obama said to laughter. "But it's a really nice prison."

"With a chef," Laura Bush said. "You can't complain," Obama said. "But there is definitely elements that are confining. 

 But Obama said the first ladies "get to work on what we're passionate about...You have an opportunity to speak to your passions and to really design and be very strategic about the issues you care most about. And I just found it just a very freeing and liberating opportunity."

They both encouraged the other first ladies to speak out, regardless of critics, invoking the focus on Michelle Obama's hair style: in January the first lady unveiled a set of bangs.

"We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see," Obama said. "And eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we're standing in front of."

"We hope," Bush interjected. "They do, and that’s the power of our roles," Obama replied.

Continue reading "First Ladies dish on life in the White House " »

June 30, 2013

Obama "humbled" by visit to Robben Island prison

America’s first family toured Robben Island, where Mandela was held in a small cell for 18 of his 27 years in prison as a political prisoner under the white leaders who ruled the nation. Obama has been before but it’s his family’s first visit.

They were taken to a bleak lime quarry, where 34 ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela were prisoners, enduring hours of backbreaking and futile work.

In the bushes, a small, wooden bench next to a wooden lattice could be seen. That's where Mandela hid the manuscript for A Long Walk to Freedom as he he wrote it. 

A cement watchtower with rusting shutters stood above the quarry. A cave cut into the wall was where the prisoners had lunch and used a toilet bucket.

Along one wall are 17 cells, each with one window that is covered by vertical, white bars. The cells are tiny, barely wide enough for someone to lay down. In Mandela's cell, there was a stall with a toilet bucket on top, and a mattress low to the floor with pillows and a brown blanket. 

Former prisoner Ahmed Kathrada, who served his 18 years alongside Mandela, was the Obama's guide.

The President and First Lady walked into the courtyard where a visitors book was waiting on a simple desk. He wrote for about three minutes.

"On behalf of our family we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

30 June 2013

First Family tours Robben Island prison

America's First Family walked together into a bleak lime quarry in Cape Town, South Africa, where 34 ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela were prisoners, enduring hours of backbreaking and futile work.

In the bushes, a small, wooden bench next to a wooden lattice could be seen. That's where Mandela hid the manuscript for A Long Walk to Freedom as he he wrote it. 

A cement watchtower with rusting shutters stood above the quarry. A cave cut into the wall was where the prisoners had lunch and used a toilet bucket.

Along one wall are 17 cells, each with one window that is covered by vertical, white bars. The cells are tiny, barely wide enough for someone to lay down. In Mandela's cell, there was a stall with a toilet bucket on top, and a mattress low to the floor with pillows and a brown blanket. 

Former prisoner Ahmed Kathrada, who served his 18 years alongside Mandela, was the Obama's guide.

The President and First Lady walked into the courtyard where a visitors book was waiting on a simple desk. He wrote for about three minutes.

"On behalf of our family we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

 

30 June 2013

June 20, 2013

Kale Broccoli Chicken? First Lady picks young chefs for WH State Dinner

First Lady Michelle Obama, Epicurious and the Education and Agriculture departments today announced the winners of a nationwide recipe challenge to promote healthy lunches as part of Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative.

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge recognizes 54 winners, representing the states, three territories and the District of Columbia. They'll all attend a Kids' "State Dinner" at the White House hosted by Obama on July 9 and featuring a selection of the winning recipes, followed by a visit to the White House kitchen garden.

Chefs and their recipes available here.

"Our Kids' State Dinner is one of my favorite events of the year, and the kid chefs who come from around the country never cease to impress and inspire me with their creativity and ingenuity," Obama said. "I'm counting down the days until the winners join me at the White House to celebrate these healthy and delicious meals that kids everywhere will love."

For the second year, the challenge invited a parent or guardian to work with kids ages 8-12 to create a "healthy, affordable, original and delicious" recipe. In support of Let’s Move!, each recipe was to adhere to guidance that supports USDA’s MyPlate. Entries had to represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and veggies making up roughly half the plate or recipe.

June 14, 2013

First Lady and daughters to do their own events in Ireland, Germany

First Lady Michelle Obama and the couple's daughters, Sasha and Malia, will accompany the president on his trip to Ireland and Germany -- but they'll do their own thing for some of the visit.

The first family will accompany Obama to Belfast and attend his remarks to local students. They'll travel to Dublin, after being asked to on President Obama's last visit, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said. There they will tour Trinity College, Ireland's oldest university, and be able to explore archives that document the Obama's Irish ancestry.

The first lady will also meet with the staff and families of the U.S. embassy in Dublin and will join some Irish youth for a Riverdance performance at the historic Gaiety Theater, where she'll be joined by Fionnuala O'Kelly, the wife of the taoiseach, and Sabina Higgins, the wife of the president of Ireland.

The three will join the president in Berlin and the first lady June 19 will visit the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe in Mauerpark, where she will tour the wall park with Chancellor Merkel's husband, Dr. Sauer. Mrs. Obama will also visit the Reichstag before rejoining the president for the official dinner hosted by Chancellor Merkel.

June 05, 2013

WH calls 1st Lady brush with heckler "brilliant"

Press Secretary Jay Carney praised first lady Michelle Obama's handling of a heckler at a fundraiser Tuesday night, though he didn't yet know what his boss thought of it.

"I haven't asked the president that, but it's my personal opinion that she handled it brilliantly," Carney said of the event in which the first lady threatened to leave the event after a heckler interupted her.

June 04, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama tells heckler: "You can take the mic"

First Lady Michelle Obama got heckled at the last of three fundraisers she attended Tuesday night, when a pro-LGBT rights woman shouted at her . 

The protestor interupted Obama about 12 minutes into her 20-minute speech, calling for an executive order on gay rights. 

"One of the things I don't do well is this," replied FLOTUS to loud applause. The pool report says she left the lectern and moved over to the protester, saying she and the crowd could "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice."

The audience started shouting that they wanted FLOTUS to stay and one woman said "You need to go!" to the protester.

She was escorted out, shouting something about "...lesbian looking for federal equality before I die," according to the pool report.

Obama picked back up with her speech, urging attendees to stay engaged in off-presidential years: "So let me make the point that I was making before...We are here for our kids. So we must recapture that passion.That same urgency and energy that we felt back in 2008, 2012."

Heather Cronk, co-director of the pro-LGBT rights group GetEQUAL, told the pool reporter that the protestor was one of its activists, Ellen Sturtz, who was calling for the president to sign an executive order to bar discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

 The official transcript doesn't include the entire exchange. See below jump for the White House version.

Continue reading "First Lady Michelle Obama tells heckler: "You can take the mic"" »

First Lady hits the fundraising circuit, including for Terry McAuliffe

First Lady Michelle Obama today will attend a trio of fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee today at private residences in the DC area. Two of the events are closed press; she'll deliver remarks at the final event.

Obama on Thursday will deliver remarks at a DC-area fundraiser for Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton pal and former DNC chair who is running for governor in Virginia.

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