Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady with the First Lady of the People's Republic of China Madame Peng at a Panda-Naming Ceremony

September 25, 2015

MRS. OBAMA: Well, good morning, everyone. I am so thrilled to be here today as we get ready to name the new baby panda. (Applause.) It's very exciting.

I want to start by thanking my dear friend, Madame Peng, for joining us. And thank you once again for the warmth and hospitality that you showed my family when we visited China earlier [last] year. We are still talking about our trip, and because of your graciousness and openness, it made our time in your country even more special. So I'm honored to welcome you here.

I also want to thank Secretary Skorton for his dedication. We welcome you on board. Thank you for your leadership, and thank you for that wonderful introduction. I look forward to working with you in the years to come.

I also want to recognize Dennis Kelly, as well, for his leadership. The National Zoo has been a favorite of my family. My daughter, Malia, has done several internships here and comes here often, even though you don't know it. (Laughter.) She is a fan. She can now operate under cover, so she comes and goes and you don't even know it. (Laughter.) But we are grateful for everything you do to make this a national treasure.

And of course, I want to recognize the scientists, the staff, the team here -- to our dear friend David for his contributions, for making this day possible.

And finally, I want to recognize all of the fabulous young people we have here from the Yu Ying School. Yay to you all! Yay to you guys! (Applause.) Thank you so much for that very special song. Very good rhythm, too. (Laughter.) It's very good.

I had so much fun visiting your school last year before my trip to China. I don't think you -- maybe you guys were too young to know that I came to your school. You didn't know that? I came and you all gave me advice on what to do when I went to China, and I took your advice. You told me what food to eat, where to stay, where not to go, how to carry my money so it would be safe -- all those kind of things. You gave me wonderful tips. And I was so excited to meet with students in China during my visit to tell them about all of you and about our culture and our values here in America.

And that's really one of the reasons why we're here today. We're here because we want young people like you to keep doing what you're doing, and that is connecting with young people in other cultures, exposing yourself to new cultures, learning new languages. And you all have done it so well. It just goes to show, when you start out early, you can learn anything.

That's why President Obama and President Xi just announced the One Million Strong initiative to [teach] one million students here in the U.S. to speak Mandarin Chinese by the year 2020, just like all of you are doing. So you guys are leaders in this, and we want other young people in this country to follow your example.

We want young people like you to be global citizens. Do you all know what that means? We want you to know what's happening not just in your neighborhood, or in your house, or in your school, or in your community, but we want you to know what's going on around the world, right? Yes.

And also, I want you all to remember and other young people to remember that you don't have to get on a plane to be a citizen of the world. Nowadays, you can just get on the Internet, right? Within seconds, you can be transported just about anywhere in the world, just with the click of a mouse or tap of a button -- or whatever they do these days. (Laughter.) You can talk to people on every continent. You can learn about thousands of different cultures.

And that's really what we're doing this week as we host President Xi and Madame Peng. What we do when we do these wonderful state visits is that we get to share ideas with each other. We get to learn about each other, up close and personal. And we get to strengthen the connections between all the people in our two countries.

And here's the very special thing that I want young people like you to know: You all are such an important part of that community-building that we do. Do you realize that? You're the best ambassadors that we have, not just right now, but for decades to come. When you go on to become interpreters and world leaders yourselves, and world travelers, and thinkers, and scientists, you're going to travel the world, and you're going to be so comfortable because you'll know other languages and other cultures.

That's what we want for every child, not just in this country, but around the world. You're so happy aren't you? (Laughter.) You should be. And you should be proud of yourself, sweetie, because we are so proud of all of you, okay, babe?

So I want to thank you all, all of you for joining us today. And with that, it is now my pleasure and my honor to introduce my friend, Madame Peng. (Applause.)

MADAME PENG: (As interpreted.) Madame Michelle Obama, Secretary Skorton, Director Kelly, ladies and gentlemen, dear boys and girls, a very good morning to you.

It is such a great privilege for me to be here with Madame Michelle Obama to name the panda cub. The birth given by its mother, Mei Xiang, is yet another success in a conservation cooperation between China and the United States on giant pandas. So I wish to express my sincere congratulations to the Chinese and American research teams.

I am delighted to learn that the American public has great affection towards the giant pandas. Ever since Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing traveled across the ocean to arrive at the National Zoo here in Washington, D.C. in 1972, the American public has expressed their affection towards those giant pandas in different ways.

I know that the pictures of giant pandas are printed on some of the banners here at the National Zoo. And on the fare card of the D.C. Metro, we can sometimes see the picture of the giant pandas eating the bamboo. (Laughter.) I truly hope to own some of these fare cards as a souvenir. (Laughter.)

I know that last month, Mei Xiang once again gave birth to a panda cub. And I know that millions of Americans watched the process of the birth on the Panda Cam. And it was such a regret that I didn't get to see it on Panda Cam, but I know that many Americans celebrated that day. So I envy you so much. (Laughter.)

Michelle once said that the giant panda exemplifies the common bond between China and the United States. That's a lot of responsibility for a cute animal like the giant pandas. (Laughter.) But she is certain that they are up to the task. Well, I agree with her very much.

You see, we do need more bonds to bring the people of our two countries ever more closer, and I think the giant pandas are exactly one of those bonds that we can celebrate to achieve that goal.

Mei Xiang's panda cub is absolutely adorable, and Michelle and I have already chosen a nice name for it. And I'm certain that it will bring it good luck, and hopefully it will grow up happily together with that name. I expect and I am confident that the giant pandas will continue to serve as an important link between our peoples, and it will bring greater joy and friendship to the people of our two countries, especially the kids of China and the United States. Thank you. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady with the First Lady of the People's Republic of China Madame Peng at a Panda-Naming Ceremony Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321827

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