Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at the Environmental Protection Agency

February 26, 2009

MRS. OBAMA: Wow. (Applause.) What a crowd. (Applause.) No, look at you! (Laughter and applause.)

I am delighted to be here in this beautiful room with -- it's about a thousand of you all here. That's a good thing. (Applause.)

I want to thank Administrator Jackson for that kind introduction. With 16 years working here as one of your colleagues before moving to New Jersey and serving in its Department of Environmental Protection, Administrator Jackson is ideally suited to lead this department at this critical time for our nation and our planet. (Applause.) So Lisa, welcome home. (Applause.)

And to the hardworking men and women of the EPA: It's a new day. (Applause.) It's a new day. And the truth is, we can't wait one more minute. The recently signed recovery package includes billions of dollars for the EPA to continue to clean up our communities and improve the health of our fellow Americans. The time is now.

I've often spoken about my most important job –- being a mom –- and like mothers and fathers everywhere, the health and safety of our children is our top priority. This is what it is all about: the future.

And in many ways, it starts with all of you. You ensure that the water we drink is safe, that the air we breathe is clean, and that the polluted fields and abandoned factories in our neighborhoods all over this nation are cleaned up and restored.

Having grown up on the South Side of Chicago and spent a good part of my career working to help families in low-income communities, where I've seen brownfields piling up and affecting kids all over this nation, I know firsthand the role the EPA has in reducing illnesses such as asthma and lead poisoning that can start in childhood but have a long-lasting effect in adulthood. There are thousands and thousands of children across this country that are affected each and every day.

This new era also puts the EPA at the center of President Obama's highest priorities: securing America's energy independence and securing the future of our planet by combating climate change. (Applause.)

We now have a President who is going to put science at the heart of our environmental policies and decisions. (Applause.) By doing so, the President, the EPA, and other agencies working on energy and the environment are going to start to champion bold policies and make smart investments that are going to do a lot of things: first, create more energy-efficient buildings -- (cheering) -- see, now that's exciting -- (laughter) -- you know you're at the EPA -- (laughter); make our cars and trucks more fuel efficient -- (applause); and double the nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. (Applause.)

Your work will not only save our planet and clean up our environment; it's going to transform our economy and create millions of well paying jobs. You know this better than anyone in the country. (Applause.) So there is a lot riding on your shoulders. So as Lisa said, what are you all doing here? (Laughter.) But I know that you are up to the challenge. I can feel it in this room.

As I have visited the agencies over the past few weeks -- and it has been a thrill, one of the best things I do every day -- I have been deeply moved by the character and commitment of the people that I meet during these sessions.

Men and women like you who have dedicated their careers, like the men and women standing behind me, many of whom have been working in this administration, for the EPA for longer than I've been alive. (Laughter.) They don't look it -- (laughter) -- but when you start adding up the time -- (laughter) -- there's some serious work going on back here. (Laughter.) But what they are is deeply passionate about the work that they do.

I understand where their desire comes from. I began my career as a corporate lawyer. And while that was rewarding professionally -– and personally, since that's where Barack and I met -- (laughter) -- it's a good thing -- I wanted to work on something though that I felt passionate about. That's when I decided to change careers and begin to work to improve public health in Chicago.

So let me deliver a simple message and a heartfelt message:

Thank you for making the health of our nation all of your passion. Thank you so much. (Applause.) All of our children will grow up in a healthier environment because of the work that you do and the dedication that you bring to the work that you do.

And while the challenges facing our nation are great and there's a lot of work to be done, I am so confident, so very confident, that we'll succeed because we've got devoted professionals like all of you in this room, ready and eager and willing to make the sacrifices to work on behalf of the American people.

But know that you are not alone in this effort. You have a great administrator in Lisa Jackson -- (applause) -- and partners in the White House. (Applause.) You have partners in the White House who believe and understand these issues. And you also have the unwavering support of a phenomenal President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

So Barack Obama is going to need you, Michelle Obama is going to need you, Malia and Sasha Obama are going to need you, and millions of children just like them are going to need you rolling up your sleeves and rededicating and recommitting, knowing that the work is going to be tough. But everything you do, every piece of blood, sweat and tears that you pour into the work is going to make the difference in our nation, in our planet.

So get to work. (Laughter.) Thank you so much. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the Environmental Protection Agency Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320263

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