Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady on Take Your Child To Work Day

April 23, 2009

MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello. Wow, look at you, guys. What's going on? Did they tell you not to talk? (Laughter.) You can talk, you really can.

Welcome to the White House. Thank you, Katie, for that introduction. First let me just get off script for a second. What have you guys done so far?

Q: We've met the people who give the letters --

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, yes, that's good, the correspondence people. What else?

Q: We also have questions --

MRS. OBAMA: Ooh, questions for me. Good, good. (Laughter.) What else? What else?

Well, you're going to get to see this whole place. What -- what did you have to say, sweetie?

Q: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, yes? Somebody who worked for the Vice President, great. Well, so far, so good. But most importantly, you don't have to go to school today, right? Yeah! (Applause.)

But hopefully you'll learn something today. So before we get into questions, I just wanted to say good morning and welcome to the White House. We're really pleased to have you guys here for this day, Take Your Child to Work Day. Has anybody participated in this before? Cool. This is a good day. Well, this year's theme is "Celebrating Service: Country, Community, and Family." And we invited you all here so you could learn more about what your moms and your dads do when they come to work every day.

And when someone works at the White House -- and I think somebody told you this earlier -- they're called a "public servant." And it's not just people who work at the -- in the White House, but it's people who work in government, in the non-profit sector, people who work in city governments. They're people who do a ton of things around this city. They are all public servants, and that means that you're working every day for the community that you live in. And they work on all sorts of projects that affects things like the food that you eat, the air that you breathe, the school that you go to. Their work touches so many parts of your lives.

And working at the White House is an honor and a privilege, and your parents take their jobs very seriously. We couldn't do what we do -- the President, me, none of us could do it -- without the support of people like your parents who work very hard. And I know that they take a lot of time away from home. Sometimes you might think they work a little too hard, they could come home a little earlier. But we appreciate what they do, and we appreciate your sacrifice, and just understanding that your parents are busy not just working to make your lives better but children across the nation and around the world.

And what's important to know is that your parents got here because they worked hard. They worked hard when they were your age. And I tell my kids this all the time: If you want to work in a place like the White House, no matter what you do, now is the time that you have to start thinking about working hard in school. And I'm assuming that everybody here works hard in school, right?


MRS. OBAMA: That you make sure you're there every day on time, that you do your homework, that you listen to the teachers, that you do your best. I tell my girls this every day: It doesn't matter what grade you get, but it matters how well you do. And my question is, for them, did you do your very best?

And that's what I know your parents want for you and what we all want for you, is that as you think about developing into young people, that you think about how well you're doing in school, that you're listening to your teachers and that you're paying attention -- because we're counting on you guys.

In a short period of time, you'll find that you'll be in high school, then maybe you'll go to college, then maybe you'll go on to get another degree. But pretty soon you'll be adults out here doing really fun stuff, maybe something like what you've seen people here doing at the White House. And we want you to be prepared and excited.

But most of all we want you to think about serving your communities, because you don't have to be a White House employee to do it. You can do it now. You can do it first of all by listening to your parents. That's a service in and of itself, just being a good kid. But you could volunteer at a homeless shelter, right? You could work for a soup kitchen. You could volunteer in a garden. You could help tutor another kid in your class who's having trouble. You could walk your neighbor's dog, mow the lawn. There's so much that you can do right now. And we want you all to start thinking now about what you can do to be good public servants, not when you grow up but right now.

So we hope you have a great day. I think you're going to get to walk around the White House and see the great rooms that we have here. You're going to get to go outside on the South Lawn, and it's a beautiful day. We planted this wonderful garden, and I haven't seen it since the rain, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it's going and what you think of the garden. I think there's some big chocolate Easter egg out there that they're going to show you. You'll get to see where Barney -- not Barney, but where Barney used to run and now Bo, our dog, plays.

So I hope you guys have fun and you really think about, you know, what you want to do when you grow up and what it takes to get there.

So now I'll stop talking, because we already have one question right now. Yes, young lady. Why don't you stand up and tell me your name and how old you are.

Q: My name is Aylis Davenport (ph) --

MRS. OBAMA: There we go.

Q: And how does it feel to be the First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA: You know, it feels just like probably being a mom, being a worker. I've worked all my life -- I've worked in corporate America, I've worked for non-profits -- and I consider this a very important job, but I have to take it just as seriously as anyone who does their job. I wake up every morning, first of all, making sure that my kids get to school on time and they do their homework.

And then I get to have a lot of fun because I get to do things like come and talk to you guys and go out to schools and plant a garden and go visit military families. So I think it's a lot of fun, the job that I have. But it feels good, actually. Thank you.

All right, let's get another question. How about that young man right there in the nice striped tie? You in the white shirt, turn around. That's you.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, okay, all right, we'll come back to you, we'll do you next. What did you say?

Q: -- well, how did you -- if something bad happened --

MRS. OBAMA: Stand up for a second. Stand up, okay.

Q: What will happen if something bad happened to a country?

MRS. OBAMA: If something bad happened to -- like what?

Q: Like the earthquake that happened in China -- what would you do?

MRS. OBAMA: What would I do?

Q: Yes.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, first of all I'd wake my husband up if it were at night. (Laughter.) And I'd tell him, hey, buddy, you're the President, get down to the Oval Office and call some leaders. You know, that's the beauty of my job. I mean, I'm married to the President and he has to worry about all that. So I think he would probably call together his Cabinet members. He'd probably talk to the people who were in charge. He'd talk to the Secretary of State. He'd call the leaders of other countries, and they'd work to figure out what they could do to help another nation in trouble. And then I'd go back to sleep and ask him how it turned out when I woke up the next morning. (Laughter.)

All right, let's get that young man that was in the back that we missed.

Q: Well, what does your dog like to do?

MRS. OBAMA: What does my daughter --

Q: Your dog.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my dog. Oh, the dog. (Laughter.) Oh, he is a crazy dog. He -- you know, he loves to chew on people's feet. (Laughter.) I'll tell you a story about Bo last night. It was like 10:00 p.m. at night, everybody was asleep, and we hear all this barking and jumping around, and the President and I came out and we thought somebody was out there. And it was just Bo. (Laughter.) He was playing with his ball. And it was like there was another person in the house. He's kind of crazy. But he's still a puppy, so he likes to play a lot.

All right, in the pink. Oh, miss Finnigan (ph), how are you?

Q: My name is Mazy (ph).

MRS. OBAMA: I meant Mazy (ph). What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in school. (Laughter.)

Q: And what -- if you had to choose a job for the day in the White House, what would you choose?

MRS. OBAMA: Say that again?

Q: If you had to choose a job in the White House for a day, what would you choose?

MRS. OBAMA: If I had to choose a job in the White House, it would be this job, being First Lady. I think I have the best job in the White House, because like I said, I get to -- I don't have to deal with the hard problems every day. I have some problems that I have to deal with, but I get to do the fun stuff.

And there's so much fun to be had in service. And it's -- because I don't get paid, I get to do whatever I want to do. And it's kind of a -- it's kind of a good mix of substantive stuff, things dealing with issues, but it's also fun stuff.

So I think I have actually one of the best jobs in the White House.

All right, let's go this way. All right, you, young man, in the black jacket.

Q: My name is Jaren (ph). I was going to ask, what do you do in your free time when you're not busy?

MRS. OBAMA: What do I do in my free time when I'm not busy? Ooh, that doesn't happen often. (Laughter.) Well, right now I'm taking care of this puppy. (Laughter.) So I'm doing a lot of dog walking and dog training.

Every now and then I have this thing that I like to do with some of my staff members, and we sneak out, without telling anybody, and we go and test out all the fun places to eat in D.C. -- like I went to Five Guys and nobody knew it. It was good. (Laughter.) So we sometimes we sneak out and do little things like that.

And I like to go to my kids' games. They've got soccer now, so I spend a lot of time doing their things and watching their movies and, you know, making sure that their friends have a good time.

So I probably do just what your mom does every day. I spend my time, my free time, with my kids. All right?

Okay, let's get the young lady in the back, way in the back with her hand up. Yes, you.

Q: Hi, my name is Kayla Bennett (ph) and I'm nine years old, and I just wanted to know how is it like taking care of the White House, Sasha, Malia and the dog?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, it's a lot of work but I have a lot of help. That's something that is fun about living in the White House. I mean, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of people, some of the people you'll meet today, who really help make that happen.

There's Admiral Steve Rochon who's here. He's the head usher. Where is the Admiral? Is he here? He was back there with me. See, he ducks in and out. But he's in charge of everything. He makes sure that the carpets are clean, that the tours happen, that food gets prepared, that the lawns are taken care of. He helps me make sure that I get support if I need help with the dog.

So there's a big staff -- people who work in the kitchen, and people who clean these chandeliers. So it takes a lot to run the White House, and fortunately I don't have to do it by myself. There's a whole staff full of people who makes sure that things work really well. And I'm lucky because of that.

All right, young man in the red striped shirt. Yes, you, sir.

Q: How is the garden growing, and what's your favorite plant in the garden?

MRS. OBAMA: You know, so far, so good. But you guys will be able to see the garden, and you can let me know how it looks. But I think it's going well, because we had a lot of great rain and now we're getting some nice warmth and sunshine. I think some of our snap peas might be having a challenge, some of our peas might be having a problem.

But the section that I like best is the row of herbs that I personally planted, number one, and then there's a section from Thomas Jefferson's garden that I think is really cool, because we got some of the seedlings that were planted at Monticello, and planted a little section in the White House Kitchen Garden. So take a look at that, because it's roped off. So I like those two parts. So let me know how you think it's going, all right?

You, young lady.

Q: What's your least favorite thing to do in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: What's my least favorite thing to do at the White House? Wow. You know, I don't know that there's a least favorite thing to do. Gosh, I don't have to do anything that is all that bad. That's a really good question.

I don't think I can list one thing that I just don't like to do. Everything that I do here is really pretty worthwhile, even if it's hard. Maybe it's running on the treadmill. (Laughter.) Why don't we put that down -- when I have to run. Sometimes I don't like to do that. But pretty much everything that I've done here so far has just been a real joy, especially things like this today.

All right, let's see. Okay, in the green -- green sweater.

Q: What do you --

MRS. OBAMA: Is your sweater green? (Laughter.) Do you have on a green sweater?

Q: Oh. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: I'll get you next. You'll be next.

Q: Wait, can I --

MRS. OBAMA: You want to be up? Well, you know, we still have time, so I'm -- you see, I'm trying to get around to every section, so we'll do green sweater.

Q: My name is Cynthia (ph) and what is it like to be at the White House, to live at the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, since I answered that question already, it's fun, okay? It's great. So I'll do that real quick answer, and then we'll go to the gentleman in the white shirt.

Q: My name is Adi (ph), and do you like cooking for your family, even though you have cooks and all of that? (Laughter.) Do you like cooking personally?

MRS. OBAMA: I don't miss cooking. (Laughter.) I'm just fine with other people cooking. Their food is really good. (Laughter.) You guys got that down; they're writing that down. (Laughter.)

All right, let's see. Young man in the dark green shirt way in the back row. Stand up, say your name, your age.

Q: I'm Brian (ph) and I'm nine years old.

MRS. OBAMA: Okay. (Laughter.)

Q: What would happen if Bo were to run away, and what will --

MRS. OBAMA: Ooh, yes. What would happen if Bo ran away? I would be very sad, first of all. But -- oh, that reminds me we have to make sure his tags are on. He has tags, and hopefully someone would find him and bring him back.

But the South Lawn is gated. It's a very gated area. So it would be pretty hard for him to get out. But I think everyone at the White House would probably help go out and find him, and we'd probably ask you guys to help look for him and call him and make sure you brought him back. But we try to -- that's why we're working on training him, so that he doesn't run away and he listens when we call him. And so far he's doing okay, so we hope we don't have that problem. Thank you.

MODERATOR: You have time for two more questions.

MRS. OBAMA: Two more? No, no. Okay, you in the red. I know, I know.

Q: My name is Caitlin (ph). Is there any time when the Secret Service is not with you?

MRS. OBAMA: There are times in the residence when they're not with me, but any time I go out anywhere, they're with me. All the time. (Laughter.) But they're very nice. They're nice to have around. It's not hard having them around. They're a great group of people, and they are funny and they do their jobs really well, and they're really kind people. So it's not hard having them around. All right?

Okay, the bowties have to -- we got to get a question from the --

Q: My name is --

MRS. OBAMA: Wait, wait, first of all, let me just -- is there a theme here with you three? Are you brothers, are you friends -- oh, you're brothers?

Q: Yes.

MRS. OBAMA: Very handsome. Well done. Friends -- and friends. Okay, sorry.

Q: What gave you the idea to start a garden?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, what gave me the idea to start a garden? Actually, it came from the challenges that I think I had and many moms have, parents have, of trying to figure out how to make sure that my kids, my girls, ate healthy food. And sometimes it's hard to do that when you're a busy mom.

Before I was here, I had a job and I had -- I was always rushing around, and the kids' schedules were busy. You guys know that feeling, right? You come home, you're rushing, mom's just gotten home from work or you've gotten home from an activity and you're trying to figure out what you're going to feed your kids that are healthy and you don't have time to prepare something. So you pop in something quick, and it's not always the best thing.

So I started trying to change the way that we ate in my household, before we even started running, trying to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. And I realize that in some communities it's hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

So I thought, what a nice idea if we got to the White House if we could plant a garden right in our backyard, because it's not that expensive to do. It's a lot of work. It can be a lot of work. But we planted a pretty big garden, and you can produce foods with a smaller crop of land, and it only cost us a couple of hundred dollars to plant this big, huge garden.

So I thought that if we talked a bit to kids mostly about what it means to eat good food and what good food tastes like and that vegetables that are grown fresh really do taste good -- which is what my daughters found out, is that a carrot that comes right out of the ground is actually kind of sweet and tasty and it tastes a little different from kind of a -- sometimes carrots you get in a store -- that maybe we could help educate other kids who could help educate their families, and we'd be a healthier nation. So that's one of the reasons I decided to plant the garden. Thank you for asking.

Okay, let's get back to the sister that I promised. You can ask a question but it's got to be a different question. It's got to be a question that nobody has asked.

Q: Where do your kids go to school?

MRS. OBAMA: Okay, that's a new one. They go to a school call Sidwell. They go to the same school that Mazy (ph) goes to, which is why I asked her why she wasn't in school, because Sasha is in school. It's like, what are you doing here? (Laughter.) So they go to -- they go to a school they just started in January, and they really like their school. They've made a lot of good friends and they have great activities.

Q: I have another question.

MRS. OBAMA: She has another question, so you must please hold. Yes.

Q: When your kids have friends over, and they stay a night, where do they stay?

MRS. OBAMA: Sometimes they sleep in the girls' rooms, or sometimes they sleep upstairs where there's a TV. (Laughter.) They like sleeping in front of the TV, probably like you all do when you have a sleepover.

All right, two more questions. Two more questions. Young lady in the red shirt, right here, yes. She's standing up.

Q: What's your favorite room in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, what's my favorite room? You know, actually I like the Blue Room that you'll see, because it's one of the oval rooms. And there are a series of oval rooms, starting from the bottom -- a room we call the Dip Room, the Diplomatic Room; you come up to the first floor, there's the Blue Room; and then you go up to the next floor and there's something called the Yellow Oval Room. And they're all oval. But when you look out, it's one of the prettiest views of the White House lawn, and I love the oval shape, and they have balconies, and when the flowers are blooming it looks really pretty out there and the sun is shining.

So it's really one of the brightest rooms in the house. So you guys will probably get a chance to see it. But I like the Blue Room.

One more, one more, one more question from a boy, because we did a girl. Okay, young man in the second row with the vest on, you.

Q: My name is Alonchez (ph) and where do you sleep?

MRS. OBAMA: Where do I sleep? In my room. (Laughter.)

Q: What room?


Q: What room?

MRS. OBAMA: It's just the master bedroom. It's just a bedroom. It doesn't have a particular name.

All right, we'll do one more question. That was an easy one. (Laughter.) Okay, still this section. Okay, young lady in the cream shirt. All right, and then we're done.


MRS. OBAMA: I know. Blame them. (Laughter.) Let's see who we should blame. Joe, are you to blame? Blame Joe. All right. Okay, go ahead.

Q: Do you spend a lot of time with President Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Do I spend a lot of time with President Obama? I do spend a lot of time with him. Actually I spend more time with him here in the White House than we did for the last few years because it takes a long time here in the United States to run for President. And it was a two-year campaign, it was a very long campaign. And he was traveling all around the country, as well as the other candidates. And when he's traveling around a lot, it's really hard to spend time together. But now we live where we work, so I can see him whenever I want. And we eat dinner together as a family. And if I really need to see him, I can walk to his office, and, you know, cool stuff like that. So I do actually spend a lot of time with him.

All right, guys. It has been so much fun talking to you all. I wish we could stay here for the rest of the day. I would have a great time talking to you guys. But you have a lot to do here -- a big program. And there's more to see than just this room. And there are going to be a lot of other people you can talk to, to find out more about what they do, what their jobs are like.

It's good to know that this group is not shy. So continue to ask questions. You can ask anybody here about anything you want to know about the White House -- what rooms are fun and who does what where. There are people here who have worked here much longer than I've been around, even, who will be able to answer any questions that you have. So ask a lot. And have a good time. And just remember, what's the goal? What's the one thing that we want to think about when we leave here today? Do you remember what I said earlier, that I want you guys to think about doing?

Q: Having fun.

MRS. OBAMA: Having fun, that's always a part of it. But what -- service, right? You remember that? Being public servants. And you don't have to wait -- yes, young lady, what's your --

Q: Well, also helping our community.

MRS. OBAMA: That's right. That's right. That's right. Okay, one more -- what do you have to say, one more good point about public service?

Q: Do your best.

MRS. OBAMA: Do your best, that's right. Do your best. That's all that we ask. And trust me, if you're doing your best, it is probably good enough, right? Just do your best. And help your folks out. Make life easy on your parents, okay? (Laughter.) All right, go back, give them a hug, tell them that they're great, tell them you're proud of them. All right? Okay, you guys have fun. It was great seeing you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady on Take Your Child To Work Day Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320237

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