The White House Blog: The First Lady

  • The First Lady on the Power of Education

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited sophomores at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, DC. The First Lady’s remarks continued to expand her focus on issues of youth empowerment and education, in particular working to achieve the President’s “North Star” Goal.

    You see, when Barack came into office,” she said, “one of the very first things he did was to set what he calls a North Star goal for America – that by the year 2020, the year that you all will be graduating from college, our country will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

    In her remarks, the First Lady spoke directly to young people about committing to their education so that they can create a better future for themselves, their communities, and their country. She also shared some of her personal academic experiences to illustrate her belief that circumstances do not define your future, but rather your attitude.

    “My parents didn’t have much money, and they never went to college themselves, but they had an unwavering belief in the power of education, and they always pushed me and my brother to do whatever it took to succeed in school." 

    “I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to have the strongest academic record possible… so I worked hard to get the best grades that I possibly could in all my classes.  I got involved in leadership opportunities in school, where I developed close relationships with teachers and administrators. I knew I needed to present very solid and thoughtful college applications… so I stayed up late at night working on my college essays and personal statements.  I knew my parents would not be able to pay for all of my tuition… so I made sure I applied for financial aid on time.  And when I encountered doubters…when people told me that I wasn’t going to cut it… I didn’t let that stop me."

  • President Obama Commemorates Veterans Day

    This Veterans Day, the President honored those, past and present, who put on the uniform of the United States military and put their lives on the line.

    President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton

    President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton, with Earlene Love-Karo, in the Blue Room of the White House, Nov. 11, 2013. Mr. Overton,107 years old and the oldest living World War II veteran, attended the Veteran's Day Breakfast at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    On Monday morning, the President hosted a breakfast in the East Room of the White House for veterans and their families. In attendance was Richard Overton from Austin, Texas. Richard is the oldest living World War II veteran. The President honored the veteran in his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery, and thanked Richard for his selfless dedication and his courage when he faced adversity.

    That’s what we owe veterans like Richard Overton, who served in the Army in World War II. He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa.  He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, “I only got out of there by the grace of God.”

    When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas to a nation bitterly divided by race.  And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home.  But this veteran held his head high.  He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity.  

  • 'Joining Forces' with You on Veterans Day

    Ed. note: The following op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden appeared this morning on the following military news websites: Military Times, Army Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times, and Navy Times.

    Over the past five years, the two of us have had the privilege of traveling across America and around the world to visit with our extraordinary troops, veterans and military families — and time and again, we have been awed by your service and sacrifice.

    We’ve been overwhelmed by the courage of our wounded warriors and the devotion of the caregivers who stand by their side. We’ve been inspired by the military spouses and children who’ve endured move after move, deployment after deployment with such strength and grace. And we’ve seen how, even after transitioning to civilian life, our veterans and military families continue to serve, volunteering countless hours in your communities for all sorts of important causes.

    That’s why, 2½ years ago, we decided that it was our obligation not only to tell you how much we appreciate everything you do for our country, but to show you by stepping up and giving you and your families the honor, recognition and support you’ve earned. That’s how Joining Forces was born.

    The goal of this initiative was to rally all Americans to step up and serve you as well as you have served this country. We challenged individuals, organizations and businesses across the country to make real, meaningful commitments to you and your families. And from the very beginning, we have been overwhelmed by the response. Here are just a few examples:

    Employment: It is simply unacceptable that men and women who serve this country so bravely abroad often struggle to find a good job once they return home. Our veterans are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees around. They thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, and they’ve got extensive experience building teams, managing complex logistics, and dealing with cutting-edge technology.

  • The First Lady Hosts the First White House Careers in Film Symposium for Students

    FLOTUS Film Symposium 1

    First Lady Michelle Obama reacts to special effects makeup during the makeup and costume segment of the Film Symposium and Oscars Workshop, in the Blue Room of the White House. November 8, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    This afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the doors of the White House to high school students from DC, New York, and Boston to partake in the first-ever White House Careers in Film Symposium.

    The students had an opportunity to learn about animation, special effects, makeup, costume, directing, music and sound effects, and heard from leaders in the film industry about how their education helped them succeed—as well as hear from the First Lady herself.

    The First Lady stopped by the workshop and encouraged the students to continue chasing their dreams in film, but to never forget the importance of education and the ability to overcome adversity.

    Once you find that passion, whether it’s film -- maybe it's science or business, maybe it's teaching -- anything, you have got to get your education.  That's the bottom line.  As I tell my kids, you have one job:  Get an education.  It is the most important thing that you can do for yourselves right now, because that's how you'll prepare yourself for success.  You have to be ready.  And this is the foundation that you have to have with you when those opportunities come.  And that's how you're going to learn the skills that you need to achieve and to keep dreaming big. 

    Mrs. Obama also encouraged the students to take advantage of their time with the panel saying “And I want you to take advantage of every second that you're here.  Ask a lot of questions.  Find out who these folks are, what they did.  What made them afraid.  What was hard.  Get as much information as you can.  And then go back and work hard.” Students had the opportunity to hear from actors and directors including Whoopi Goldberg, Naomie Harris, Ryan Coogler, David Frankel, Blake Lively, and Gayle King.

    Watch the First Lady's remarks below:

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates Diwali at the White House

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for a Bollywood Dance Clinic in the State Dining Room of the White House.

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for a Bollywood Dance Clinic in the State Dining Room of the White House, Nov. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed guests to the White House for a Diwali celebration. The celebration started with the First Lady suprising local students at a Bollywood dance clinic and trying out some moves herself.

    Then the First Lady spoke during a reception in the East Room:

    “We’ve celebrated this holiday here at the White House every year since Barack took office. And there’s a reason why we've done that,” she said.

    When we say that we want to make the White House the “people’s house,” we mean all people. We mean that we want to honor and embrace all of the many cultures and faith traditions that make us who we are as Americans. And Diwali is very much one of those traditions.

  • President Obama and the First Lady Surprise White House Tour Visitors

    President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have made it a priority to open the White House to young people, military families, and Americans of all ages. Today, President Obama and Mrs. Obama surprise guests on a White House Tour and we invite you to watch live.

    Experiencing the White House isn’t limited to those who are able to visit in person. Check out all of the ways the Obama Administration offers virtual visitors unprecedented access to the People’s House, and then find out how to stay engaged with all that is happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


    Learn about the White House grounds and many of the historic rooms inside the People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


    We have partnered with the Google Art Project and allowed their 360 Street View cameras to capture the rooms that are featured on the public tour.


    Check out behind thescenes of some of the everyday – and not so every day—activities that take place at the White House.

  • An Open Letter to Our Veterans and Their Families

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross posted from The Huffington Post.

    Back when Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, we said that one of our top priorities was the health and well-being of our veterans and their families -- and we said that not only as First and Second Ladies, but as mothers and wives. For us, there's nothing more important than knowing that our families are healthy and happy. And after spending so much time with military families and hearing your stories of service and sacrifice for our country, I know that that's your priority as well.

    But while many veterans qualify for health coverage through VA programs, we know that today, there are 1.3 million uninsured veterans and nearly 1 million uninsured family members of veterans. As a result, right now, people who've already sacrificed so much for this country all over the world have to face yet another challenge here at home: dealing with the worry that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you have; enduring all those everyday stresses -- the pains you try to ignore, the symptoms you hope will just go away because you can't afford to see a doctor. 

    That's just not right. But thankfully, because of the new health care law, you and millions of other Americans will soon have access to the quality, affordable health insurance you need. This new law means you can get preventive care -- things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids -- without additional costs or co-pays. It means you can't be denied coverage because you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, cancer or asthma. And it means that young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. 

    And if you don't have insurance, there's now a simple way for you and your family to get all of these benefits, along with the coverage you need. 

    If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn't applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for care through the VA. To find out if you are, just go to, call 877-222-VETS, or visit your local VA facility in person. 

  • First Lady Michelle Obama marks 9/11 anniversary with a visit to Ft. Belvoir

    In honor of 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the USO Warrior and Family Center and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Intrepid Spirit One, at Fort Belvoir, VA.

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins children in an art project at the USO Warrior and Family Center

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins children in an art project at the USO Warrior and Family Center in Ft. Belvoir, Va., Sept. 11, 2013. The center supports wounded, ill and injured troops, their families and caregivers as well as local active duty troops. September 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and research of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder, and other service related illnesses and injuries among service members, veterans and their families.

    Mrs. Obama began her visit by completing a service project with military children at the USO Warrior Care Center. Together they created crafts for delivery to the NICoE and decorated a USO banner that will be displayed at a barbeque and concert for military families.

    “Do you realize you guys are heroes?” explained Mrs. Obama to the military children. “We’re so proud of what you do because your parents, your moms and dads and grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts, whoever is in your family who is serving – you guys help them help our country.”

    She thanked them for their sacrifices in supporting our nation’s service members and left them all some White House cookies to enjoy. 

    Following her visit with military children, Mrs. Obama toured the NICoE and their rehab facilities. She met with military personnel recovering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and other service related injuries.

    First Lady Michelle Obama joins children in an art project at the USO Warrior and Family Center

    First Lady Michelle Obama visits with wounded warriors and their families at the Intrepid Spirit One, a satellite center of the Bethesda-based National Intrepid Center of Excellence, in Ft. Belvoir, Va., Sept. 11, 2013. The center cares for service members and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress and related conditions. Wounded warrior Shenae Mitchell demonstrates a device that targets balance issues. September 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Mrs. Obama concluded her visit to the NICoE by sitting down for a roundtable discussion with the family caregivers of wounded warriors. 

  • Remembering September 11th

    Today, we honor those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001.

    At 8:46 AM, the time that the first plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, President Obama was joined by the Vice President, the First Lady, Dr. Biden, and White House staff on the South Lawn to observe a moment of silence.

    Later that morning, the President, Defense Secretary Hagel, and other military officials attended the September 11th Observance ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington. The President laid a wreath at the Zero Age Line and observed a moment of silence at 9:37 to honor the victims of the attack at the Pentagon.

    President Obama then delivered remarks to families of the victims, also honoring the four Americans who lost their lives a year ago today in Benghazi.

    They left this Earth. They slipped from our grasp.  But it was written, “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose.”  What your families lost in the temporal, in the here and now, is now eternal. The pride that you carry in your hearts, the love that will never die, your loved ones’ everlasting place in America’s heart. 

    Pres Obama, Sec. Hagel and Gen. Dempsey at 9/11 Pentagon ceremony

    President Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and General Dempsey attend the September 11th Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Sept. 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Read the President's full remarks from the September 11th Observance Ceremony

    Later this afternoon, President Obama also participated in a service opportunity with Food & Friends, a Washington-area organization that provides freshly-prepared meals to people living with life-challenging illnesses.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama: We're Counting on You to be the Next Agents of Change

    First Lady Michelle Obama at a screening of "The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights"

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at a screening of "The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights," in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Aug. 27, 2013. Mrs. Obama was introduced by Whitney Young's niece Bonnie Boswell, left, who wrote and produced the documentary. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    A day before celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the First Lady invited local students to the White House to watch “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a film that chronicles the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.

    "What this documentary shows us is that there are so many unsung heroes in our history whose impact we still feel today," said Mrs. Obama. During her remarks, the First Lady shared one of her favorite quotes by Young:

    It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.

    "How are you going to be the agents of change for the next generation?" the First Lady asked. "We’re counting on you all to be ready to take the helm and be the next agents of change, because there is still a lot of work to do."

    The First Lady has a personal connection to the civil rights leader. In 1981, Michelle Robinson graduated from the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. Take a look some archival photos from the First Lady's time at Whitney Young High School:

    Photos courtesy of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School.