First Lady's anti-obesity crusade will become major US export...
By Marian Burros
Washington, DC: With the announcement on Tuesday that Michelle Obama will head the American delegation to the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in the United Kingdom, and her mini-Olympics Let’s Move! event at American University for local fifth graders, the First Lady’s childhood obesity initiative takes on worldwide significance and pushes in a different direction. With Mrs. Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, by her side--they had just flown across the pond for the start of their Official Visit--the tone of Mrs. Obama's speech on behalf of Let’s Move! had changed, taking on more stirring rhetoric. (Above: Mrs. Obama speaks as Mrs. Cameron, in pink, and athletes listen)
“The Games are about finding our inner strength,” she said. "It’s about working even harder than you think you can.”
While Mrs. Obama is not the only First Lady to head the American Olympic delegation – Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush have done the same--she is the first to use the association to further a signature initiative. For the third year of Let's Move!, there is a renewed focus on physical fitness, and co-branding with the Olympics gives significant heft to the crusade. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Cameron)
One particular story stood out: About Kortney Clemons, who was standing with her. He was wounded in Iraq and is the first Iraq veteran to qualify for the national Paralympic team, becoming a national champion sprinter.
“He is an inspiration to people around the world," Mrs. Obama said. “Do you understand that? Around the world. Let's give Kortney a round of applause." The kids complied.
“I could go on, because everyone behind me has a similarly powerful story, okay?” She was referring to the other Olympians who signed up to help the obesity campaign. Gymnast Dominique Dawes is co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and introduced Mrs. Obama before her remarks.
“But these are the stories of triumph, of perseverance and sheer willpower that lie behind every Olympian and every Paralympian. And that’s why these Games are important, you guys."
“If all these athletes can do what they do, then surely you guys can get moving and help the people in your lives get moving, right? So that’s going to be one of our very important goals with the Olympic Games, is using this as a way for us to be inspired to be as healthy as we can all of the time. Do you think we can do that?"
Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Cameron watched 10- and 12-year olds in relay races, basketball, dribble relays, soccer and tennis. The First Lady tried her hand at tennis, wearing kitten heels, cream colored wide-legged pants and a beaded yellow top. (Above: Mrs. Obama plays tennis)
Mrs. Cameron opted for five-inch heels, guaranteeing she would not have to partake of any exercise and confined herself to talking and shaking hands. Very slim, she wore a hot pink over blouse cinched at the waist with a black belt and black pants.
There were medals for all. Students from Arlington Science Focus School in Virginia were awarded gold medal on long ribbons while the Olympic music heard during every broadcast of the games, played.
Maryland's Manor View Elementary school students took home the silver and the MacFarland Middle School in the District won bronze, with Mrs. Obama doing some of the honors. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Cameron pose with kids and from l Olympic gold decathlete Dan O’Brien, tennis player Mal Washington, Dawes, Leslie, and Paralympian John Register)
Many of the Olympians and Paralympians, as well as a few athletes already chosen to participate in the 2012 Olympics, had met Mrs. Obama before. There was a flurry of hugging as the First Lady, whose unofficial title is Hugger-in-Chief, greeted many of them. Hoops legend Lisa Leslie noted she didn't get to be so successful because she's tall--it required plenty of hard work. Mrs. Obama held hands with Leslie as they chatted on the sidelines.
After signing autographs and posing for photos, she and Mrs. Cameron departed the event. The kids were thrilled, of course. The President and Prime Minister spent the evening in Dayton, Ohio, participating in March Madness and affirming the Special Relationship over hoops and hot dogs.
The Official Visit continues on Wednesday, and culminates with a State Dinner in the evening. CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the Camerons' visit.
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama