Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady in a Question and Answer Session with Children at Take-Our-Daughters-And-Sons-To-Work Day

April 22, 2015

MRS. OBAMA: How are you guys doing today?

CHILD: Great!

MRS. OBAMA: Great! Was that a -- that was great. It's been great? Why has it been so great?

CHILD: It's fun.

MRS. OBAMA: It's fun.

CHILD: Because we're at the White House.

MRS. OBAMA: You're at the White House! It's pretty cool. How many people -- how many of you have been here before? Oh, see -- (laughter) -- I knew I recognized some of you. Is it living up to the hype?


MRS. OBAMA: Yeah? Well, since you -- many of you have been here before, you know that this is really your time. You can ask me anything you want. But before we get started with questions, I just wanted to make sure that you guys understood why it's important for me to spend time with you.

Because, look, for the kids who have parents who work here, you know what I always tell you? That I know that it's hard, having parents who work all the time; that sometimes they miss out on your activities because they're busy working. Sometimes it's a little irritating. I know my kids get a little irritated when we can't make everything.

But what your parents are doing -- are really important. It's really important work for the President and for the country. And they couldn't do it without your support. And that's one of the reasons why we wanted to make sure that this day here was special for you guys, so that you get a sense of what it is your parents do when they come to work here. You don't get a sense of everything they do, but you get kind of a sense of what it feels like working here, right? So that you know when they go off and they're working long hours, you kind of have a clue about why they do what they do. But they couldn't do it without you.

So we're proud of you guys. We really are proud of you. I know the President and I, what makes us the happiest in the world is that our kids are doing well, that they're happy, and that makes us happy. And I know that's true for your parents, as well.

So as Amoni said, I want you guys to keep working hard in school. Keep being good. Listen to your parents, okay? Behave yourselves. And read a lot. And eat your vegetables. (Laughter.) Okay?

So that's all I have to say right now, but I know we've got questions and I know we've got somebody who's already going to ask the first question. Is that Dylan (ph)? It's Phillip (ph)? Okay. All right, Phillip. You've got the first question.

Q: Who's the most interesting person you've met since you were First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA: Wow, that's really -- that's a good one. Well, let's see. I've met a lot of cool people -- met the Queen of England. I've met the Pope. I've met George Clooney. (Laughter.) I've met other kings and queens, if you can imagine that. I met Nelson Mandela before he passed, and that was a real honor. Yeah, that was pretty special.

So I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of really important people who've impacted the world -- Bishop Desmond Tutu. I've met Toni Morrison. I've met poets and authors, and actors and actresses, and scientists. It's just too many people to name. I've met one of my heroines, Maya Angelou, before she passed.

So I've got -- I've had a wonderful opportunity. But you know who I enjoy spending time with the most? Kids like you. I don't spend this kind of time talking to anybody else in the world except for kids like you. You guys bring me the greatest joy. You really do. You guys have hope and optimism, and I love spending time with you.

So even though I've met some of the most famous people on the planet, I really enjoy my time with you guys. So thank you. Thanks for the question, Phillip.

All right, I'm going to try to go section by section. And I'm going to try to do some in the front and some in the back, and I'm going to try to switch between boys and girls, all right? So since Phillip was a boy -- the young lady way in the back with the pretty head -- what's that on your head? That's so pretty.

Q: It's a halo.

MRS. OBAMA: It's a halo! All right. Tell me your name, stand up.

Q: I'm Noel (ph). And when you were little, did you ever want to be the First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA: No, I didn't. I didn't know I could be the First Lady. I mean, like Amoni said, I grew up -- my parents didn't go to college. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood. Sometimes you can only be what you know exists in the world, and no one like me was ever the First Lady of the United States. Nobody like my husband was ever the President. So it was never something I knew I could aspire to be.

So instead, I wanted to be a pediatrician. And then after I decided I didn't like science that much, I decided maybe I'd be a lawyer. So I worked hard and I went to law school, and I practiced law. And then I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer, so -- that's what you do in life. You kind of explore things. I decided I wanted to work for city government, so I worked in Chicago. Then I started a nonprofit organization that worked with young people that wanted to pursue careers in public service. Then I worked at a university.

So I've done all kinds of things, and along that path, First Lady never even came across my mind. But here I am. And it's a pretty cool job. So just know that -- why education is important is that all that stuff I did leading up to now prepared me to be the First Lady, even though I didn't even know I wanted to be the First Lady. Does that make sense?

All right. We're going to go to this section. It's a boy's turn. Young man in the back in the white shirt -- collared shirt. No, you turned around. You, yes. No, in front of you, yes.

Q: So I know that your brother coaches college basketball. So I was wondering who is better at basketball, your brother or your husband.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh! (Laughter.) My brother. (Laughter.) He knows that. If the President were here, he'd say that. My brother was -- played for Princeton. He was all Ivy. He was one of the top players in the Ivy League when he played. He played in Europe. I mean, my brother really played basketball. My husband dabbles in basketball. (Laughter.) He enjoys basketball.

So I don't think there's any contest. That's pretty clear cut. My brother is better than my husband in basketball.

All right. That was an easy one. We're coming over here. It's a girl's turn. Right here in the pretty -- yeah. What's your name?

Q: My name's Jasmine (ph).

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Jasmine.

Q: Hi. And who is your inspiration?

MRS. OBAMA: You know, my biggest inspiration is my mom. And like I said, I've had wonderful mentors all my life. I've had teachers in grammar school. I've had colleagues at work who mentored me. I had professors in my college and in my law school, wonderful mentors. But when it's all said and done, when I think about the voice in my head who tells me what to do every day, it's my mom's voice.

How many of you are like that, you hear your parent's voice in your head? You know what your parents expect of you, right? You know when you're doing something right or wrong, or when you're not sitting up straight, or when you're not talking clearly. Everybody's sitting up straighter right? Because you hear your parents in your head.

My mom is my greatest mentor. My father, who passed, still is my mentor. I do what I do because I want to make them proud, and I know what their values are -- that they would expect me to do my best. They would expect me to help others. They would expect me to do well in anything I did. And even though they didn't have an education, they are the people who influence me every single day.

All right. Coming over here. It's a boy's turn, right? All right, young man in the blue jacket. Yes, you. No, you. Yes. No, the other. Stand up, tell me your name.

Q: Derrell (ph).

MRS. OBAMA: Hi, Derrell.

Q: How was it like in your life?

MRS. OBAMA: What do you mean? Be specific. Like, just growing up? Or what's it like being First Lady?

Q: Mm-hmm.

MRS. OBAMA: What do you mean? What is it like every day?

Q: When you were a kid.

MRS. OBAMA: When I was a kid? You know, I had a normal childhood. I grew up in Chicago. You can sit down, babe, if you want to. I was kind of a tomboy when I was little, because I had a big brother and I used to box with him. My father used to box, so he bought us both boxing gloves. My brother had big ones, I had little ones. And I used to beat up my brother and my cousins. I loved baseball and softball. And like special times were we'd go to the drive-in and we'd be able to eat in the car -- simple things. Like, we played outside until it got dark, and we liked to play Tag and It and Chase.

And I always worked hard in school. School was always important. So I always wanted to do my best in school, so I made sure that I got good grades and I did my homework, because I was listening to my parents because I knew that would make them proud. But otherwise, I was just a regular little girl.

I liked jumping Double-Dutch. I was a good Double-Dutch jumper. I took dance when I was in fifth grade. I took piano lessons starting at four. I went to a magnet high school where they selected kids from all over the city. It was called Whitney Young, and it was a great school. And I was senior class treasurer, so I was my class treasurer in high school. And then I went to college.

So it's kind of like a regular life. And I talk to kids about my life because people look at the First Lady and the President and they think, well, somehow you must be different from me when I was a kid, right? Because we live in this house, and a lot of people see us on TV. But it's important for you guys to know we were just like you -- just regular kids, just trying to figure it out, trying to have fun, listening to our parents.

So the reason I say that is because you can be here. If you want to be President, if you want to be the First Lady of the United States, you have the ability if you work hard and get your education. There is nothing magical about sitting here other than a lot of hard work, okay? You don't have to be born in a special place or come from a family that has a lot of money and connections. You can just be a regular little girl who works hard and tries hard at what she does, okay?

Does that help you, Derrell? Was that the question, Derrell? Was that what you wanted to hear?

All right, we're back over here. It's a girl's turn. I see a pink arm in the air with a little pink thing on your head. What's your name?

Q: Tori (ph).

MRS. OBAMA: Hi, Tori. Tori with a "T"?

Q: Mm-hmm.

MRS. OBAMA: Hi, Tori.

Q: Do you feel special or different from anyone else?

MRS. OBAMA: Sometimes I do, and that's not necessarily good all the time. (Laughter.) But yeah, there are times where I feel different because we are treated differently. Like, I can't go anywhere without security. I can't walk outside the front door without a whole lot of people talking in their wrist about where I'm going and when and how. So there's a lot of fuss that comes with -- this is a big house, and there are a lot of people, and there's stuff and there are cars, and there's security and there's movements.

Do you know when the President move -- his motorcade includes about 20 cars? Every time he has to go somewhere, there are about 20 cars of people who follow him around, including the press. See, these people make you feel a little different. You got the press here. Like, before I lived here, the press didn't care what I did.

So there are times when you feel different. There are times when you feel special, when you get an opportunity to do things that nobody else would get to do. But most of the time I feel like me, I feel like Michelle, and I don't feel very special. I feel like I'm Michelle and I live in this house, and I have my kids and my husband, and I want to make sure that they're healthy and happy. And I want to make sure that I do things that help other people so that my time here isn't wasted. That's how I feel most of the time.

All right, we're here -- a boy. We're going to work on and we're going to get everybody. All right, blue shirt, you're so -- yes, with the -- yes. You're just so earnest. There was a lot of earnestness behind that hand-raise. What's your name?

Q: Joshua.

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Joshua.

Q: When you first moved here, did you have to, like, move in anything, or was everything already here?

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, we had help moving. I didn't have to lift a finger. (Laughter.) But you know what happens, you know how quickly they have to turn the house around? I don't know if you guys have ever seen the President being inaugurated. It's at the Capitol and there are all these people, and they take the oath.

Well, you know what happens while that's going on? They're moving everything around. They're moving the family who currently lives here out, and they're moving the new family in. And they only have a few hours to get that done. Can you imagine that? Because a new family can't live in this house until that family -- until they are sworn in as President. You don't have access to any of this.

So until they take that oath of office, we can't live here. Officially we can't. So it takes hundreds of people -- they're rushing around upstairs, they're rolling up carpets, they're cleaning, they're painting, they're taking furniture out. I don't know what it looks like because I wasn't here when they were doing it, but it sounds like it's a pretty complicated process.

But we didn't have to do anything, because we were busy at a parade. So we had a lot of help. We have a lot of help to do what we do. There's very little that I have to do here as First Lady in terms of, like, regular housekeeping and cleaning and stuff like that. Because they want the President to be free to run the country. They don't want him to have to worry about packing his shirts.

Coming over here. It's a girl's turn. Okay, way in the back -- yes! Way in the back, blue sweater. Yes, you. Yes! (Laughter.) What's your name?

Q: Ella.

MRS. OBAMA: Ella, how are you? What's going on? What do you want to know?

Q: If you could have any animal, like any kind, what would you choose, like, as your pet?

MRS. OBAMA: I have two dogs. Besides the dogs? If there was another pet?

Q: Yeah.

MRS. OBAMA: It would be a cat. I like cats. I'm just a little allergic to cats, so that's the only reason we don't have a cat. Me and Malia, we're a little allergic to -- and if I had more time and money I'd love a horse. But they're really expensive, and I'm kind of allergic to them, too. (Laughter.)

But I like Sunny and Bo, my dogs. I've wanted a dog since I was little but my mother never let me have one. She feels really guilty about it now. (Laughter.) But I begged and begged and begged for a dog and I never got one, so now I've got two. (Laughter.) It's payback.

All right, we're over here. It's a boy's turn. Has it been a boy's turn a lot on this side? All right, we're going to flip it to a girl's turn. And you in the front with the blue who was so disappointed that it was a boy's turn. We're going to flip back around. We're going to do girl over there -- I mean boy over there. What's your name?

Q: Josie (ph.)

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Josie.

Q: What's your favorite trip that you've made as a First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA: Wow, that's a tough one. The time we got to sleep in Buckingham Palace, because we had a state visit there. So there was a big state dinner and it was very grand. And when you're invited as the guest for the state dinner, you actually are allowed to sleep in Buckingham Palace. That was very cool. And we got to dine with the king and the queen, and it was very grand. And it was everything that you would imagine that a state dinner would be like at the Palace. That was one of my favorite trips. But I like all of them. But that was pretty cool.

All right, who did I say was over here? You're right, you remembered. All right, you're way out in the aisle. You're about to fall. What's your name?

Q: I'm Gabriel Brinzo (ph). What's your favorite President other than your husband? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Right now, I'm loving FDR. He's one of my favorites. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Do you agree? Okay. (Laughter.)

All right. Right here, oh, we've got a girl. Right there in the little pink sash. Yes, you!

Q: How old are you?

MRS. OBAMA: How old are you? (Laughter.) I'm 51. What does that mean? What's that look? Say that again. Give her the mic.

Q: You're too young for a 51-year-old.

MRS. OBAMA: What was that, babe? I didn't hear you.

Q: You're too young for a 51-year-old. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you! You should come up and give me a hug. Come on up here. Come give me a hug for that one! (Applause.) What's your name?

Q: Anaiyah. (ph)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, sweetie. All right, we're over here and it's a boy. All right, curly hair, plaid shirt. You. What's your name?

Q: Patrick.

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Patrick.

Q: How many rooms are there in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, gosh. Daniel, how many rooms are here? One hundred thirty-two. That's a lot of rooms. Really? Is that all the little rooms? Is that every single room? That's including upstairs? East Wing, West Wing? So that's just the residence, right?

So this building were in is the main residence, and we live upstairs. And there are two floor upstairs that we live in. But there is also the East Wing, where my offices are and the mil aides' offices are, and then there's the West Wing, where the Oval Office is. So if we included those, do you ever -- you don't ever -- it's like, no, we don't know. There are more rooms than that. It's a big house. It's really big.

All right. We're over here. It's a girl. Aqua top in the middle. Yes, you.

Q: Which dog is your favorite, Bo or Sunny?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, I love them both equally. (Laughter.) They're different dogs with different personalities. Bo is kind of -- he's the old -- he's getting to be the older senior citizen. So he's a little slow, doesn't excite too much. You call him over, it takes him a minute to figure out whether he really wants to come. (Laughter.) He kind of ambles over. He breathes hard.

Sunny is still a puppy. She's two. So she's like, "love me, love me, I'm here, I'm here, I need you, what do you want, I'll sit on your lap, tell me what to do!" Those are the differences. (Laughter.) But I love them both. They add something different to the family.

All right, we're over here. Last question -- we'll do a couple more. All right. Vest, yes. What's your name?

Q: Andrew. And do you get lost a lot?

MRS. OBAMA: Not anymore. Not anymore. But there were times when I got lost. There are a lot of doors and if they're closed, sometimes you don't know. There are secret doors. But after you live here a while you pretty much know where you're going. And it makes sense. You kind of understand the logic of the building, if that makes any sense.

All right, over here. It's a girl, it's a girl. All right, young lady. Yes, you. You knew it was you, right? But you've got to have a question. (Laughter.) Take your time, take your time. We're going to do rapid-fire questions, okay? Have your questions ready. Short, fast questions. We're going to try to get as many in starting with you. What's your question?

Q: How long have you been with Barack Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Have we been married? Twenty-something years. (Laughter.) Wait, somebody. You guys know the date. When was it? It's been over a decade. It's been a while.

All right, we're here. It's a boy. You, quick, quick. You've got to be fast with the mic.

Q: What advice do you have -- what advice will you give me if one day I was to be the future President?

MRS. OBAMA: The advice that I would give you is that being President is a very hard job, and it requires a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. So you have to be able to work hard for long periods of time. You have to know a lot of information. You've got to read everything you can. You've got to know about history. You've got to know about world politics. You've got to know about the economy. You've got to know about what's going on around the world.

And I would suggest that you start now. Make sure you read the paper, and read many different papers. And understand what the issues are and see if those are things that are interesting to you. And you've got to make sure to go to college, right, and study hard in college. Maybe even go to graduate school. Get a lot of experience and get used to people. You have to like people. So you should volunteer, maybe even work at the -- join the Peace Corps and work abroad, and work in another country. And learn what it feels like to live in other parts of the world so that when you have to work with world leaders you'll know something about the world. You can't just know what's right around you, you've got to be willing to explore the world.

All right, over here. Rapid fire. We've got a girl! We've got a girl, right here. Yellow. Quick, quick, quick.

Q: So have you ever been to Illinois, Downers Grove?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes, I have been to Downers Grove in Illinois.

Q: Because that's where my grandma lives.

MRS. OBAMA: You tell your grandma, hey, grandma! (Laughter.)

Q: And, can I have a hug?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! All right, rapid fire. Over here. It's a boy. Right here, in front row.

Q: What's your favorite room?

MRS. OBAMA: My favorite room is the Red Room. Did you guys go to the Red Room?


MRS. OBAMA: It's all red. Isn't it pretty? It's so pretty. Rapid fire. Right here, girl in the front row. You right here. What's your name?

Q: My name is Sydney (ph). If you could add anything to the White House, what would it be?

MRS. OBAMA: If I could what?

Q: Add anything to the White House.

MRS. OBAMA: Add. Oh, wow. That's a good question. Wow. I would add anything -- what? Any suggestions? Less rooms, a pool? There is a pool. There is a pool here. You guys have a lot of suggestions. Adopt children, you said? That sounds good.

CHILDREN: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: I don't know. You stumped me on that one. An animal shelter? A zoo? What else?

CHILD: Arcade!

MRS. OBAMA: A what? An arcade? You know what, I'm sure the press is taking down these suggestions. We'll put them out there, we'll propose it to the President, we see if we come up with something. We had zoo, we had an arcade, we had a heliport, we had -- we have an exercise room.

All right. Rapid fire. Over here. It's a boy, it's a boy. In the glasses in the middle row. Yes, you. Quick, quick, quick. No, no, right in front. Give him the mic, right in front of you. There you go.

Q: My name is Justin.


Q: Do you like living in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: It's great. I do. Rapid fire. It's a girl --right here in the front.

Q: Can I take a picture with you?

MRS. OBAMA: You want to take a picture with me?

Q: Yeah.

MRS. OBAMA: You know what, I would love to but I -- everybody wants a picture, right?


MRS. OBAMA: That's why I can't, because I can't take one with -- you can give me a hug. Come on, babe. I wish I could stay and take a hug with all of you guys. They're taking the pictures so you find one of them, get that picture! (Laughter.)

All right, we're going to do one more round around, okay? And then that's going to be it. So we did a girl, we're going to do a boy. In the suit in the back with the tie, the blazer. Right here. Yes, that young man.

Q: Do you always have to dress nice? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, I do. Unless nobody sees me, and then I dress like a bum. (Laughter.) Over here, rapid fire. It's a girl, it's a girl -- way in the back with the white sweater on, on the end. Right next to her -- yes, that's it. What's your name?

Q: Rosa.


Q: Can I have a hug?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, you guys! I can't hug you all! I can't hug everybody. Question, though. Do you have question?

Q: Yeah.


Q: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

MRS. OBAMA: In the world? I want to go to Bali, Indonesia. I'd love to go to Australia. I haven't been to that continent before. I'd love to go anywhere in South America, and the Antarctic. That'd be cool. It'd be cold. It'd be really cold.

All right, over here. It's a boy. Okay, on the end, that young man right there. What's your name?

Q: Sean (ph).


Q: Does Joe Biden live here?

MRS. OBAMA: Joe Biden doesn't live here. He works here. His office is over in the West Wing. But the Vice President's residence is at the Naval Academy, which isn't far -- it's the Naval Observatory, which is not far from here. But he has a separate residence.

All right, last question. It's got to be a question not a hug. And it's a girl. Oh, there's a little -- in the middle, white shirt. Yes, it's you! What's your name?

Q: Margo (ph).

MRS. OBAMA: Margo, what's going on?

Q: Since you like the Cubs and your husband likes the White Sox --

MRS. OBAMA: You did your research.

Q: What do your kids like? No, my brother told me that. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: What's the question?

Q: What are your kids fans of?

MRS. OBAMA: They don't -- they're not into baseball, I just have to be honest with you. I know, I know. They're girls, I don't know. Not to say that girls don't -- they're more into -- Malia likes tennis, Sasha is into basketball, but I don't know if they have favorite teams.

You guys, this has been so much fun. It really has. I wish I could take pictures and hug all of you, I really do. I would stay here and do it, but then you guys would miss your lunch and everything else, and we'd be here all day and your parents would get mad and it would be bad. You think -- what did you say?

CHILD: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: A royal dinner? You think? Well, that's for the planners of next year. For next year we should do a royal dinner or lunch.

But you guys are awesome. You really are. You're very bright. And just remember, you can do anything that you put your mind to, okay? I'm very proud of you. Thanks for all the great questions. And for those of you, maybe we'll see you next year, okay? Be good while I'm gone. I'm going to -- I don't want any reports.

Bye, guys. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady in a Question and Answer Session with Children at Take-Our-Daughters-And-Sons-To-Work Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321753

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