First Lady Michelle Obama visited Jackson, Mississippi on Wednesday for the second road trip for the Let's Move! campaign since its White House launch on Feb. 9. She toured the Sam M. Brinkley Middle School and Pecan Park Elementary School with Gov. Haley Barbour and First Lady Marsha Barbour, and state and local officials. Mrs. Obama led what the White House dubbed a "Let's Move! Rally" at Brinkley school, and addressed a wildly excited crown of about 1,000. (Above, at the rally)
Mississippi has the highest rate of child obesity in America, at 44.4 %, but the First Lady said that she wasn't visiting to shake a finger at anyone.
“I picked this state because of all the creative things that are already happening here to fix things," Mrs. Obama said. "I'm not here to highlight what's wrong; I'm here to highlight what’s right."
Many of Mississippi's "creative solutions" are the kind of programs that Let's Move! encourages, and Mrs. Obama praised these in her speech at Brinkley.
She noted that Gov. Barbour recently signed legislation that requires schools to give students time for physical activity, as well as teach health and nutrition education--the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, a co-project between the White House and USDA--has the same goals. Some Mississippi schools have farm to school sourcing to ensure healthier foods in school lunch programs, and in Jackson, elementary school teachers are required to eat lunch with students, in order to encourage healthier choices.
Mrs. Obama also lauded local groups that run physical activity programs for kids. Before the rally, the First Lady walked an on-campus exercise trail at Pecan Park school, which is also open for community use. She met in private session with Gov. Barbour and other state officials, too.
As is usually the case, the First Lady was greeted during her visit with the kind of enthusiasm that's reserved for, say, the cast of the Twilight films, or, for a more historic reference, the Beatles coming to America.
"She makes everyone so happy. I can tell you no one ever yelled this loud for my husband," Mrs. Barbour told the pool reporter following Mrs. Obama.
The call to children to join the campaign...
At the Brinkley rally, the First Lady was introduced by Tiffany Thomas, a student who won an essay contest about the importance of Mrs. Obama's campaign. Mrs. Obama's speech touched on all the usual talking points of her Let's Move! campaign remarks, but this time, she made a special appeal to the kids in the audience. (Above: Mrs. Obama with Gov. Barbour and Mrs. Barbour on the walking trail at Pecan Park)
"I'm going to ask for help from the most important group of this whole entire effort,” Mrs. Obama said. "Have you ever been asked by the First Lady or the President of the United States to help them? Well, I am asking you for your help.”
At the end of the day, the First Lady said, it's children themselves who must change in order for Let's Move! to work, and for child obesity to be eliminated. Mrs. Obama told the crowd that no matter what she says, and no matter what parents, schools, or states do, eliminating child obesity within a generation is dependent on the children themselves. Mrs. Obama told the youngsters they have to do their part.
She urged the kids to make healthier food choices, to turn off the TV and spend less time playing video games, and to get physically active. She noted that she has these conversations with her own daughters. (Above: Mrs. Obama with Brinkley students; Tiffany is in white)
“We can make all these changes in your communities, your parents can do things differently, the schools can do things differently, but if you're not open to change and ready to do your part, then it won't work either, right?” Mrs. Obama said.
"You have to want to change, right? And it starts with the choices that you make. And this is what I tell my kids: Make healthy choices, right?"
The kids in the audience got far quieter than they were at the start of Mrs. Obama’s speech.
"You have to help your parents out, because when they ask you to make the change, what don't we want you to do, parents? Whine? We don't want whining," Mrs. Obama said. "Can you help us by not whining about a change?"
There was much laughter from the parents in the crowd. Mrs. Obama reminded the kids that they have all kinds of adult support, but the future depends on them.
“We’re doing this because eventually you all are going to be in charge of all this, right? One day you're going to be the parents and the teachers and the doctors and the principals and the governors, and we need you healthy, right?" Mrs. Obama said. "We need you to be in a good, strong body so that you can get these things done.”
Mrs. Obama is a big believer in the power of kids to change; the profound effect of the White House Kitchen Garden on the student helpers who joined her there taught her that kids can--and will--change their habits, when parents and communities lead the way.
Related: The transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks is here. A White House video of Governor and Mrs. Barbour praising Mrs. Obama's campaign is here. This week, Mrs. Obama also addressed the School Nutrition Association in Washington, DC. The first road trip for Let's Move! was to Philadelphia. All of the commitments and components of the Let's Move! campaign are listed here.
*White House video; White House & Getty/pool photos.