Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady Launching "Let's Move!" Active Schools in Chicago, Illinois

February 28, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. I am thrilled to be here today as we launch Let's Move Active Schools –- this unprecedented effort to bring physical education back to America's schools.

And I want to start by recognizing Secretary Duncan, Mayor Emanuel, Jim Gavin, Allyson Felix. I want to thank you all for your extraordinary leadership and for taking the time to join us here today.

I also want to thank the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, who are working with the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to launch this new effort. (Applause.) Absolutely. Yay. Well done.

And of course, I want to thank Nike and their CEO Mark Parker for their groundbreaking investments and passionate engagement to make all of this possible. And I also want to recognize Child Obesity 180, GenYouth, and Kaiser Permanente. Thank you all, thank you so much for your tremendous support. This is a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, awesomely-inspiring day. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank all of you. All of you, yes -- our educators, administrators, community leaders and parents who work hard every day on behalf of our children. You all know better than anyone else just how critical physical activity is for our children's health and well-being. And you also know that today, we are nowhere near giving our kids the opportunities they need to be active.

Only one in three of our kids is active every day -- just one in three of our kids. And as Secretary Duncan said, that's not just bad for their bodies, it's also bad for their minds, because being less active can actually hurt kids' academic performance as well.

The other thing we know is that it hasn't always been this way. Just think back to what things were like when all of us old people were kids. Now, I grew up just a few miles from where we are today, over on the South Side. You guys know my background -- my family certainly wasn't rich. Our neighborhood was just barely working-class. I attended public schools all through kindergarten all the way up through high school.

But my brother Craig and I, we had countless opportunities to be active every single day. We played freeze tag on the playground before school. I jumped double-dutch -- still can, actually -- at recess. We played softball. My brother played on hoops at a high school, basketball, every day after school.

And during the summer, we were regulars at the Chicago Park District day camp, where the highlight of that summer experience was a big Olympics competition at the end of the summer where we got medals and ribbons. It was amazing.

Back then, being active was a way of life. We were up and moving every single day, throughout the entire day. And the activities we did didn't just teach us how to shoot or catch or sprint. Basketball helped my brother develop the discipline and focus that put him on the path to college –- a path that I would later follow.

Now, for me, playing sports taught me how to be part of a team, taught me how to be aggressive, how to compete and win -– which were important lessons for a young girl, especially back then. So for me and my brother and for so many other young people, being active was important –- not just for our health, but for our success in school and in life.

But times have changed. Our kids spend about half their waking hours in school. But today, due to budget cuts and limited resources, many schools simply can't afford the activities we all took for granted when we were growing up. And I know that with each passing year, it feels like it's just getting harder to find the time, and the money, and the will to help our kids be active.

But just because it's hard doesn't mean we should stop trying –- it means we should try harder. It means that all of us –- not just educators, but businesses and non-profits and ordinary citizens –- we all need to dig a little deeper, start getting even more creative.

And that's what Let's Move Active Schools is all about. It's about all of us coming together to once again make being active a way of life for our kids. And it's about showing our kids that being active is fun. How about a little fun? Because when kids have early, positive experiences with physical activity, that sets them on the course for life, shaping their habits not just when they're young, but as adults, as well. And once we've gotten our kids excited about being active, then we need to give them opportunities to be active every day, throughout the day.

Now fortunately, it really doesn't take much to get our kids moving. See, that's the thing. It doesn't take much. You don't need to invest tens of thousands of dollars in new sports leagues or fancy equipment. You don't need to find hours each day for recess and gym if that's not possible. Quality physical education comes in all different forms, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

But what it does take is leadership. That's why we want to do everything we can to help leaders like all of you find solutions that work for your students and your communities. Because we know what you all are capable of.

Teachers in Elk Grove Village in Illinois start off every day with 20 minutes of kickboxing or cardio activities. They have regular "brain breaks" where kids get up and they're moving throughout the day.

In Natick, Massachusetts, parents came together and organized a physical activity program that meets in the morning before classes event get started, and teachers support, and also report, that kids in this program are more confident, they're showing that they are more attentive in class, and they're have better academic performance.

So whether it's organizing dance flashmobs between classes, or an afterschool running club, or finding ways to incorporate physical activity into lessons throughout the day, the possibilities here are truly endless. And the need is truly urgent. And that's something that I really want to emphasize today.

You see, this is about so much more than keeping our kids physically active. And it's about more than making sure that they do well in school. I mean, this is about giving our kids the structure and support they need to thrive in every single aspect of their lives. It's about giving them something to strive for, something to hope for, somewhere to belong. And physical activity is a critical part of that broader effort.

I often ask myself -- I ask myself this all the time -- where would I have been without all those activities that kept me safe and busy and off the streets? Where would my brother have been without the confidence and focus he learned playing basketball? Where would all of us be without the adults in our lives who pushed us, and nurtured us –- the folks who gave us opportunities to learn and grow and fulfill every one of our God-given potential?

That's really what we're talking about today. We're talking about our responsibility to do all of that for the next generation, our kids. And that's why all of you are here today. And make no mistake about it, you all are the ones who will determine whether this new initiative is successful.

And I know you can't do this all on your own. I know that you all are facing so many constraints and juggling so many demands already, and lots of times there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to done. But that's why Nike and all these other organizations here today have stepped up. They know your challenges.

They've invested their energy and resources and staff to give you the tools you need to make this happen. They're offering grant money. They're offering training. They're offering technical assistance. So today, anyone in any community can become a champion to bring physical education back to their school.

So if you're an educator, especially a physical education teacher, we need you to serve as one of those champions and rally support from your community. If you're a principal or a superintendent, we need you to spread the word about this program and support the champions in your schools, encourage them to innovate and experiment. If you're a parent, remember, you can serve as a champion yourself. And even if you don't, you can play a critical role at home by pushing your kids to be active.

As you've heard, our goal is ambitious -- it's to reach 50,000 schools all across this country. So we're going to need everyone on board, because the stakes simply could not be higher. You see that every day -- all of you see it in your classrooms and in your communities. I see it everywhere I go, all across the country, every time I meet with our young people.

Every single one of these kids is special. They're all special. Every child I meet has the potential to contribute something amazing; to succeed in a job, to raise a family of their own, to give back to their community and to their country. Every child has that potential. But the fact is, it's up to us as the grown-ups in the room to help them fulfill that potential.

It's up to us to bring out the very best in all -- do you hear me -- all of our young people. That is our moral obligation to our children. That's how we show them that we believe in them, and that's how we teach them to believe in themselves.

It's also our patriotic obligation to this country. It's how we raise the next generation of workers and innovators and leaders who will continue to make America the greatest nation on earth. That's why these companies and organizations have stepped up to support all of you in this vitally important work.

And now, we need you to commit to making this work in your schools and communities. And once you do that -- and I know you will, I can feel it -- we need you to use your platforms as education leaders to reach out to other schools and other school districts. Share ideas and best practices, give them the encouragement they need to succeed as well.

And if we all do that, if we put in the time and energy and the imagination, then I am confident that together, we'll be able to give all of our children everything they need to lead the happy, healthy lives they truly deserve.

We are so proud of you all. We are proud of this effort. We are grateful to you all for your work and your focus on our kids. Thank you so much, and God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady Launching "Let's Move!" Active Schools in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320150

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