Category Archives: Children

5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The Obama Family Lights The National Christmas Tree

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

President Barack Obama, with mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughters Sasha and Malia, and First Lady Michelle Obama, react as they push the button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ed. Note: Watch the full National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and show with musical performances by B.B. King, Sara Bareilles, Common, Maroon 5 and more at www.thenationaltree.org.

Last night, the First Family continued a proud holiday tradition – lighting the National Christmas Tree for the 88th time. View photos from the event and watch a video of the President’s remarks, the tree lighting ceremony, and a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the First Lady.

President Barack Obama addresses the crowd as he and the First Family attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama and First Family listen to the program at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

BB King performs Merry Christmas Baby at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“Snow or shine, in good times and in periods of hardship, folks like you have gathered with Presidents to light our national tree,” said President Obama, “Now, it hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. On one occasion, two sheep left the safety of the Nativity scene and wandered into rush-hour traffic. That caused some commotion.”

He continued, touching on the history of the ceremony and taking a moment to honor the men and women that are serving in uniform overseas this holiday season:

Often, the ceremony itself has reflected the pain and sacrifice of the times. There were years during the Second World War when no lights were hung, in order to save electricity. In the days following Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill joined President Roosevelt to wish our nation a Happy Christmas even in such perilous days.

But without fail, each year, we have gathered here. Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia. It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians, but it’s a message that’s universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.

It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.

And so during a time in which we try our hardest to live with a spirit of charity and goodwill, we remember our brothers and sisters who have lost a job or are struggling to make ends meet. We pray for the men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and in faraway places who can’t be home this holiday season. And we thank their families, who will mark this Christmas with an empty seat at the dinner table.

On behalf of Malia, Sasha, Michelle, Marian — who’s our grandmother-in-chief — (laughter) -– and Bo — don’t forget Bo — (applause) — I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season.

And now I’m going to invite the entire Obama crew up here to help me light this Christmas tree. (Applause.)

All right, everybody, we’re going to count from five — five, four, three, two, one.

(The tree is lit.) (Applause.)

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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First Family Helps Families At Food Pantry

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama packs and gives bags of food to area residents, with the help of his daughters Sasha and Malia, and first lady Michelle Obama, and first grandmother Marion Robinson, ahead of the Thanksgiving Day holiday at Martha’s Table on November 24, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Obama family delivered turkeys and bags of food to needy families at Martha’s Table, a 30-year-old non-profit that helps poor children, youth and families with food and clothing.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Attends “Let’s Move” Event In Harlem

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move” after-school event in Harlem with elementary school children at the New York Police Athletic League’s Harlem Center November 18, 2010 in New York City. The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign highlights the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for children in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

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Trick-or-Treat with the President and First Lady

Posted by: Audiegrl

Carved pumpkins depicting President Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, and the White House sit on a stone wall next door to where the President was attending a dinner reception in Providence, Rhode Island, Oct. 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama greet trick or treaters and their parents at the White House October 31, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Obama’s greeted children and military families at the North Portico to celebrate Halloween and to trick or treat across the North Lawn.

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President Barack Obama hugs a trick or treater at the White House October 31, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Obama's greeted children and military families at the North Portico to celebrate Halloween and to trick or treat across the North Lawn. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images North America)


An American Tradition: UNICEF’s Trick or Treat is Young at 60

Written by Ambassador Susan Rice

When I was growing up, I carried two things with me on Halloween: a bag for candy and my UNICEF box. This was true from the moment of my very first Trick-or-Treat. In the late 1960s and ’70s, Washington, DC felt a world away from the battle-scarred towns of post-World War II Europe, and from the villages of the developing world that were suffering from food insecurity and infectious disease.

But thanks to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s “Trick-or-Treat” campaign and my bright orange box full of jangling coins, I knew that I had the power to make a difference. I knew I could help give other young kids access to safe water if they were thirsty, medicines if they were in danger of getting sick, and textbooks even if they lacked access to a good school. Still today, the backs of UNICEF’s orange boxes translate kids’ efforts into real outcomes: seven cents gets 50 kids safe water for a day. Nineteen dollars gets three mosquito nets and some much-needed protection against malaria. More than $160 million has been collected for UNICEF on Halloween.

The U.S. Fund’s Halloween campaign was my first exposure to the United Nations. Ever since my childhood, I’ve been passionate about UNICEF and its efforts. I am proud today to release an official statement congratulating the U.S. Fund for UNICEF on the 60th anniversary of its Halloween collections. And I’m proud to add my voice to a chorus of support that has included Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, First Ladies Ford, Reagan and Bush, Mighty Mouse, the New Kids on the Block, and Spiderman. I wish UNICEF the best with its Halloween collections this year, and I wish all children, including my own, a safe and happy Halloween.

Ambassador Susan Rice is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Link to 44-D’s Halloween Special of 2009

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First Lady Michelle Obama’s Fall 2010 Kitchen Garden Harvest

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Robin Scheppe

First Lady Michelle Obama, with students from Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools and members of the Culinary Olympic Team, participates in a White House Kitchen garden harvest on the South Lawn of the White House, October 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

The rain stopped and the sun came out just in time for the First Lady’s Fall 2010 Kitchen Garden Harvest. Joined by more than 25 students from Washington, DC’s Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools, the First Lady and several world-renowned chefs spent the afternoon in the White House garden digging up sweet potatoes, clipping herbs, picking tomatoes, and admiring the pumpkins before sitting down to enjoy a fresh salad from the garden.

The school-children were paired with chefs Daniel Boulud and James Kent as well as several White House chefs. Armed with large baskets and wheelbarrows, they scoured the garden for peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce and other fall vegetables. The First Lady joined them, rolling up her sleeves, to dig up enormous sweet potatoes, including a near record-breaking four pounder, and to pick deep purple egg plants. The children and the First Lady also admired the two pumpkins growing in the garden – just in time for Halloween.

First Lady Michelle Obama, with students from Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools and members of the Culinary Olympic Team, participates in a White House Kitchen garden harvest on the South Lawn of the White House, October 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

First Lady Michelle Obama, with students from Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools, look participates in a White House Kitchen garden harvest on the South Lawn of the White House, October 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

First Lady Michelle Obama, with students from Bancroft Elementary School, watch closely as a sweet potato from the White House Kitchen Garden fall harvest is weighed on the South Lawn of the White House, October 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

In less than an hour, the children and chefs brought baskets brimming with vegetables and overflowing wheelbarrows to weigh-stations where several hundred pounds of food was collected and washed.

The festivities continued when the children joined the famous chefs to slice and dice vegetables for a garden salad meal.

The White House garden is part of the Let’s Move! Initiative which seeks to end childhood obesity within a generation through improved nutrition and increased physical activity.  In the spring of 2009, the First Lady and students from the DC area broke ground for the garden and since then nearly 1,600 pounds of food has been harvested. The produce is used in the White House but is also donated to local area food banks. The White House Garden has inspired communities across the country to plant similar gardens at schools, in abandoned lots, and in community spaces.

Connecting chefs, gardens, and schools has been a critical component of the Let’s Move! initiative.  Through the Chef’s Move to Schools program and the Healthier US Schools Challenge hundreds of schools and communities are improving the health of America’s children. What are you waiting for? Plant a garden at your school or in your community and have a harvest yourself.

Robin Schepper is Executive Director of the Let’s Move! Initiative, Office of the First Lady

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President Obama Meets With Students From the Documentary, “Waiting for Superman

Posted by: Audiegrl

Watch a behind-the-scenes video with President Obama and students from the film Waiting for Superman. Yesterday, the children, their families and others that worked on the movie met with President Obama in the Oval Office and watched him depart in helicopter Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House.

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Community Colleges: “America’s Best Kept Secret

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Katelyn Sabochik

President Barack Obama and Dr. Jill Biden take part in the White House Summit on Community Colleges, highlighting the critical role that community colleges play in developing America’s workforce and reaching our educational goals, in the East Room of the White House, October 5, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, Dr. Jill Biden hosted the first ever White House Summit on Community Colleges.  The summit brought together community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders, faculty and students to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of the nation’s evolving workforce, as well as the critical role these institutions play in achieving the President’s goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

As Dr. Biden said in her remarks earlier today, community colleges are “one of America’s best-kept secrets,” providing affordable, quality higher education to millions of Americans each year and preparing them for the jobs of the 21st century:

Getting Americans back to work is America’s great challenge.  And community colleges are critically important to preparing graduates for those jobs.  We are here today because community colleges are entering a new day in America, and here’s why:  For more and more people, community colleges are the way to the future.  They’re giving real opportunity to students who otherwise wouldn’t have it.  They’re giving hope to families who thought the American Dream was slipping away.  They are equipping Americans with the skills and expertise that are relevant to the emerging jobs of the future.  They’re opening doors for the middle class at a time when the middle class has seen so many doors close to them.

In his remarks at the opening session of the summit, President Obama emphasized the importance of providing all students with access to higher education to meet his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

That’s why last year I launched the American Graduation Initiative.  I promised that we would end wasteful subsidies to big banks for student loans, and instead use that money to make college more affordable, and to make a historic investment in community colleges.  And after a tough fight, we passed those reforms, and today we’re using this money towards the interest of higher education in America.

And this is helping us modernize community colleges at a critical time -– because many of these schools are under pressure to cut costs and to cap enrollments and scrap courses even as demand has soared.  It’s going to make it possible for colleges to better harness technology in the classroom and beyond.  And it’s going to promote reform, as colleges compete for funding by improving graduation rates, and matching courses to the needs of local businesses, and making sure that when a graduate is handed a diploma it means that she or he are ready for a career.

We’re also helping students succeed by making college more affordable.  So we’ve increased student aid by thousands of dollars.  We’ve simplified the loan application process.  And we’re making it easier for students to pay back their loans by limiting payments to 10 percent of their income.  But reaching the 2020 goal that I’ve set is not just going to depend on government.  It also depends on educators and students doing their part.  And it depends on businesses and non-for-profits working with colleges to connect students with jobs.

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The President also reiterated the importance of investing in education as a means of growing our economy even in tough economic times – a point he made yesterday when he announced the Skills for America program.

That’s why I so strongly disagree with the economic plan that was released last week by the Republican leaders in Congress, which would actually cut education by 20 percent.  It would reduce or eliminate financial aid for 8 million college students.  And it would leave community colleges without the resources they need to meet the goals we’ve talked about today.

Instead, this money would help pay for a $700 billion tax cut that only 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans would ever see –- an average of $100,000 for every millionaire and billionaire in the country.  And that just doesn’t make sense -– not for students, not for our economy.

Think about it.  China isn’t slashing education by 20 percent right now.  India is not slashing education by 20 percent.  We are in a fight for the future -– a fight that depends on education.  And cutting aid for 8 million students, or scaling back our community — our commitment to community colleges, that’s like unilaterally disarming our troops right as they head to the frontlines.

To learn more about the White House Summit on Community Colleges, visit WhiteHouse.gov/CommunityCollege.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks to Congressional Black Caucus About Let’s Move!

Posted by: Audiegrl

The Congressional Black Caucus was formed in 1969 when the 13 black members of the U.S. House of Representatives joined together to strengthen their efforts to address the legislative concerns of black and minority citizens. African-American representatives had increased in number from six in 1966 to nine, following the 1969 elections. Those members believed that a black caucus in Congress, speaking with a single voice, would provide political influence and visibility far beyond their numbers.

The Caucus received its first national recognition when its members met with former President Richard Nixon in March, 1971 and presented him a list of 60 recommendations for governmental action on domestic and foreign issues. The President’s response, considered inadequate by the Caucus, further strengthened their efforts to work together in Congress.

Today, there are 41 members of the Congressional Black Caucus representing many of the largest and most populated urban centers in the country, together with some of the most expansive and rural congressional districts in the nation. These members, now as in the past, have been called upon to work as advocates for America’s varied constituent interests–developing an ever-expanding CBC legislative agenda — as well as addressing the concerns of their own particular districts.

The visions and goals of the original 13 members, “to promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens,” have been reaffirmed through the legislative and political successes of the Caucus. The CBC has been involved in legislative initiatives ranging from full employment to welfare reform, South African apartheid and international human rights, from minority business development to expanded educational opportunities. Most noteworthy is the CBC alternative budget which the Caucus has produced continually for over 16 years. Historically, the CBC alternative budget policies depart significantly from administration budget recommendations as the Caucus seeks to preserve a national commitment to fair treatment for urban and rural America, the elderly, students, small businessmen and women, middle and low income wage earners, the economically disadvantaged and a new world order.

In the thirty-nine years since its founding, Caucus members have been successful in rising to strategic positions on House Committees to affect needed changes in federal policies. Senator Barack Obama marked the first member elected President of the United State. Never afraid to tackle the most serious social issues, CBC members are regularly referred to as the “conscience of Congress.”

Remarks by the First Lady at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference

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First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks At Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

“You Don’t Have to Throw Abuela’s Cookbook Out the Window”

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy Conference in Washington. September 14, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) today. For more than 30 years, CHCI has been working to develop the next generation of leaders for the future of the Hispanic community and the country as a whole through scholarships, fellowships, and career programs.

She discussed the need for forward-looking organizations like CHCI to address the challenges of tomorrow, particularly the challenge of childhood obesity in America. An issue important to Mrs. Obama, not just as First Lady, but as a mother.

Now, we all know this is a serious problem in every single community in this country. But like with so many of the other challenges we face today, communities of colors have been hit especially hard. Nearly two in five Hispanic children are overweight or obese. And this isn’t just teenagers or school-age kids that we’re talking about. Believe it or not, the obesity rate among Hispanic preschoolers is higher than their white or African American peers.

And we all know what this means for their overall health. We all know the links between obesity and cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

But we also know that childhood obesity is not a stand-alone problem. We know that it is bound up in just about every other issue that we face. It is about health care. It’s about education, economic opportunity. It’s about how our food is processed, and how our cities are designed, how our children spend each day in school. It’s about the restaurants where we eat, and the grocery stores where we shop, and the decisions we make for our children every single day: decisions about how much time they spend with TV and video games, as opposed to running around outside; decisions about what they eat, how much of it, and how often. So we all have a stake in this problem. And we all have a role in finding a solution.

That’s why the First Lady launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide campaign to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation and she asked for CHCI’s help in solving it. From working to sign up schools for the Healthier US Schools Challenge to encouraging kids to enroll in the 6-week President’s Active Lifestyle Awards program, there are countless ways to make an impact. And one way is by starting at home.

It’s about families making manageable changes that fit with their budgets and schedules, with their needs and with their tastes. And that might be something as simple as going for regular walks with your kids or maybe turning off the TV and turning on the radio and dancing a little bit in the living room until you break a sweat. (Laughter.) That counts.

Small things like cutting back on portion sizes or replacing soda with water or just putting some more fruits and vegetables on the table, all of this can add up over time and make a big difference in the lives of our kids. And, believe me, you don’t have to throw Abuela’s cookbook out the window. (Laughter and applause.)

There is a role for those time-honored family recipes, but it’s about moderation. It’s about doing our best to monitor what our kids are consuming. How many snacks are they eating? How many sodas are they drinking? Has dessert become an all-the-time food instead of just a once-in-a-while treat? It’s about being proactive, about going to the doctor and getting our kids screened for obesity.

But most of all, it’s about doing something. There are countless ways for us to start making a difference. The key is to start now, because when it comes to our children’s health and happiness, when it comes to their future, we don’t have a moment to waste. And if anyone knows what it takes to make real change in this country, it’s all of you. It’s what you’ve been doing for nearly 35 years.

In closing, the First Lady touched on the core mission of the organization and the health of our nation’s kids:

Now I remember hearing that when you all started the Hispanic Caucus back in 1976, the Speaker of the House joked that the first meeting could be held in a phone booth, because back then you had just five members. And now, you have 23. (Applause.) CHCI’s first class of fellows was all of four strong. And today, there are more than 5,000 students that have benefited from your educational services and your leadership development programs.

See, now those are results, right? That’s the kind of real impact that you have had, and can have, on this nation and on our children. And that’s the core mission of this organization, to give our children opportunities that we never dreamed of for ourselves. And that’s why all of you have organized. It’s why you’ve marched. It’s why you stood up and spoke out and refused to back down, no matter what kind of odds you faced.

And I don’t think any one in this room — or any of your parents or grandparents — fought so hard for so long only to see a future where the greatest threat to our children is their own health.

But the good news is, is that we can do something about this. This is one of those problems that’s in our hand. The solution to this problem is right within our grasp, but only if we reach for it, and only if we work for it and fight for it, only if we once again summon that urgency that has spurred us forward, generation after generation, seeking something better for our children.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Challenges Restaurants to Offer Healthy Options

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Restaurant Association’s Fall Board Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. September 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)


“So today I’m going to talk about food, which is something that all of you here today know a little bit about,” said First Lady Michelle Obama to an audience representing forty percent of the nearly one million restaurants in the United States, from the biggest chains to the smallest diners, at the National Restaurant Association Meeting in Washington, DC.

The First Lady discussed Let’s Move!, her nationwide campaign to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that kids born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Let’s Move! is about attacking the problem from all different angles – from giving parents the information and the resources they need to making sure every community has access to fresh and nutritious food. Today, the First Lady called on America’s restaurant owners for their help, challenging them to offer healthy, accessible menu options:

That’s why I want to challenge every restaurant to offer healthy menu options and then provide them up front so that parents don’t have to hunt around and read the small print to find an appropriately sized portion that doesn’t contain levels — high levels of fat, salt and sugar.

These choices have to be easy to make and they have to give parents the confidence to know that they can go into any restaurant in this country and choose a genuinely healthy meal for their kids.

Now, again, I know it’s easier said than done. It’s not easy to come up with choices that are both healthy and palatable for kids. And it may mean putting in some real effort and creativity to make this happen.

Let’s Move! is committed to helping increase the demand and making it easier for restaurants to do what’s right:

And we’ve started by requiring chain restaurants to provide calorie counts on their menus and menu boards. And I am grateful for the support we’ve received from the NRA to get this done. And I want to encourage restaurants that aren’t providing calorie counts to join us in this effort.

And because so many of the calories our kids consume come from school, we’re also working to get more nutritious food into our lunchrooms and our vending machines. And, again, the NRA has been playing an important role in these efforts as well.

As part of “Let’s Move,” we’re setting a goal of doubling the number of schools that participate in the Healthier US Schools Challenge by next year. And we’re working with schools and food suppliers to offer more fruits and vegetables and to cut down on that fat, sugar and salt.

And, finally, we’re working with mayors and other local officials to make our cities and towns healthier and to highlight restaurants that agree to serve smaller portions and promote more nutritious options.

In closing, Mrs. Obama encouraged everyone in the room to join her in these efforts to help make sure that every family that walks into a restaurant can make an easy, healthy choice.

We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.

See, after all, that’s one of the core ideals this industry was founded on. I recently learned that the term “restaurant” actually comes from the French word for “restore.” And when the idea of the restaurant business spread across the ocean, some of the first true restaurants in this country emphasized their ability to make people healthier and to cure what ailed them.

So today, you are all the heirs to that legacy. And you face a similar opportunity both as business owners — but also as parents, not just to fulfill your obligations to shareholders, but to fulfill the obligation we all have to the next generation.

Read full remarks here.

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