The White House Blog: The First Lady

  • West Wing Week: 07/26/13 or "Becoming A More Perfect Union"

    This week, the President hosted the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals, the President of Vietnam, pressed for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, and laid out his vision of growing the economy from the middle class out, while traveling to Illinois, Missouri, and Florida. 


  • Michelle Obama Empowers Latino Community at National Council of La Raza Conference

    Ed Note: This is a cross post from the blog of letsmove.gov. You can find the original post here.

    Speaking to over 1,800 attendees at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama exclaimed, “Food is love… it’s how we pass on our culture and heritage as meals become family traditions and recipes are passed on from generation to generation.”

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Council of La Raza annual conference

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Council of La Raza annual conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, July 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    But, said Obama, pointing to health issues like the rise of diabetes, “while food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death.”

    Significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents are a reality. Currently, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in this country are overweight or obese. Hispanic kids ages nine to 13 are only half as likely to participate in organized physical activity outside school. And, unhealthy products are being disproportionately targeted towards our nation’s Latino communities.

    As the largest national Hispanic and civil rights advocacy organization in the United States, NCLR recognizes that Latino families face higher rates of hunger, food insecurity, and obesity and has taken a leadership role in trying to address these issues. NCLR’s Comer Bien (Eat Well) Initiative encourages the work of the First Lady’s Let’s Move!Initiative, and provides access to nutritious food through federal food assistance programs, resources, and nutrition education to Latino parents and their families. Additionally, NCLR has been a tremendous advocate and partner on key initiatives like MiPlato (MyPlate) and La Mesa Completa (USDA’s SNAP program).


  • West Wing Week: 07/12/13 or “Bring it On Brussels Sprout Wrap!”

    This week, the White House hosted the second Annual Kids' State Dinner, while the President laid out his vision for building a better, smarter, faster government, awarded the 2012 National Medals of Arts and Humanities, met with the Congressional Black and Congressional Hispanic Caucuses, and honored the Washington Kastles and the 1963 Ramblers.


  • President Obama Presents the 2012 National Medals of Arts and Humanities

    President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to George Lucas

    President Barack Obama awards the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The President presents the National Medal of Arts to George Lucas. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • President Obama Presents the National Medal of Arts to Herb Alpert

      National Medal of Arts, Herb Alpert

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Lin Arison

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Lin Arison. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Presents the National Medal of Arts to Joan Myers Brown

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Joan Myers Brown. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Renée Fleming

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Renée Fleming. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Presents the National Medal of Arts to Ernest J. Gaines

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Ernest J. Gaines. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Presents the National Medal of Arts to Ellsworth Kelly

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Ellsworth Kelly. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Tony Kushner

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Tony Kushner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to George Lucas

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to George Lucas. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Elaine May

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Elaine May. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Laurie Olin

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Laurie Olin. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Allen Toussaint

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Allen Toussaint. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Edward L. Ayers.

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Edward L. Ayers. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Medal of Arts to Jenny Bilfield, President of the Washington Performing Arts Society

      The President presents the National Medal of Arts to Jenny Bilfieldof the Washington Performing Arts Society. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to William G. Bowen

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to David Bowen, accepting for his father, William G. Bowen. (White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Jill Ker Conway

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Jill Ker Conway. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Natalie Zemon Davis

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Natalie Zemon Davis. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to  Frank Deford

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Frank Deford. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Joan Didion

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Joan Didion. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Robert Putnam

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Robert Putnam. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Kay Ryan

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Kay Ryan. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Robert B. Silvers

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Robert B. Silvers. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Anna Deavere Smith

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Anna Deavere Smith. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Marilynne Robinson

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Marilynne Robinson. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Obama Awards the National Humanities Medal to Camilo José Vergara

      The President presents the National Humanities Medal to Camilo José Vergara. July 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    What do an acclaimed Opera singer, the director of Star Wars, and a Harvard scholar have in common? Today at the White House, they were all honored by President Obama as recipients of the National Medals of Arts and Humanities.

    In a ceremony in the East Room, President Obama presented 24 medals, equally divided between the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal, to extraordinary individuals who impacted American life. As the President said, the medal recipients "used their talents in the arts and the humanities to open up minds and nourish souls, and help us understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be an American."

    And that's no small feat. Today's awardees included screenwriters, dancers, poets, and professors. They made phrases like "Luke, I am your father" familiar, and they challenged our fundamental beliefs about American civic society. Some won a Grammy, Pulitzer or MacArthur Genius Award, but all awardees gave more to the country than their physical prizes can ever represent.


  • West Wing Week: 07/05/13 or "Dispatches: Africa"

    This week, the First Family traveled to Africa, for a three country, four stop visit that started in Dakar, Senegal and ended in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with stops in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa sandwiched in between. There were drums and dancing, crowds and ceremonial pomp and circumstance, meetings, forums, summits and town halls, and moving trips to both Goree and Robben Islands.


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Thanks for Following Our Trip to Africa

    First Lady Michelle Obama Participates in a Google + Hangout in Johannesburg

    First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a Google + Hangout on education at the Sci Bono Discovery Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 29, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    After seven amazing days, we’re finally back home. I hope you enjoyed following our journey, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to continue learning about Africa.

    We visited only three of this continent’s countries on our trip, but there are so many more, each with its own rich history and culture. In each of these countries, there are young people just like you who are working hard to get an education and dreaming about their futures just like you are. And I have to tell you, after meeting so many of these young people this past week, and seeing how passionate, determined and talented they are, I feel more confident than ever before about our future. 

    As these young people -- along with young people in the U.S. and around the world – step up to become the next generation of leaders, I’m convinced that you all will rise to the many challenges we face and move our countries and our world forward for generations to come.

    Thank you again for joining me on this journey!

    Michelle Obama is First Lady of the United States


    The First Lady's Travel Journal from Africa

    Kicking Off Our Trip to Africa
    June 26, 2013 - Washington, D.C.

    An Example to Follow
    June 27, 2013 - Dakar, Senegal

    Visiting Goree Island
    June 27, 2013 - Goree Island, Senegal 


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Empowering Girls Through Education

    Today, I had the pleasure and honor of ending our trip by attending an African First Ladies Summit entitled “Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa” which was co-sponsored by our former First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush.  There are so few people in the world who know what it feels like to be married to the President of the United States, and Mrs. Bush has been so incredibly kind and welcoming to me and my family over the years.  So I was thrilled to have the chance to see her and her husband, President Bush, and to attend this very important event.

    Upon arrival, I got to meet First Ladies from countries all across Africa who came here to Tanzania for this summit.  These women are doing extraordinary work in their home countries – from raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, to fighting violence against women, to working to end child hunger – and it was inspiring to learn about the difference they are making across this continent. 

    I then had a lively discussion with Mrs. Bush about the impact that First Ladies can have on the important issues this conference is focused on: women’s health, women’s economic empowerment, and education for women and girls.  This last issue is particularly near and dear to my heart and has been part of my focus throughout this trip.

    The fact is that too often, in developing countries, girls simply don’t get the chance to attend school.  In some parts of Africa, fewer than 20% of girls ever attend high school.

    There are many reasons for this education gender gap.  Sometimes, girls’ families simply can’t afford the costs of sending them to school (for things like school fees, uniforms, or school supplies).  Or if parents don’t have enough money to send all their children to school, they’ll send their sons instead of their daughters.  In some parts of the world, girls are expected to get married when they’re very young – when they’re teenagers or even younger – or they have to work to help support their families, so they can’t go to school.  And in some places, a girl may have to walk many miles to attend the nearest school, and it may not be safe for her to do that by herself.


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Baba wa Watoto

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, watch the Baba Watoto performance

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, watch the Baba Watoto performance at the National Museum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    I just watched the most extraordinary group of young people sing, dance and perform gravity-defying acrobatic feats – and they did it all with rhythm, style and grace! 

    These kids are part of the Baba wa Watoto (which is Swahili for “father of children”) Center, an amazing community organization that gives kids the opportunities they need to succeed in school and in life. Many of you might participate in programs like this – such as Girl Scouts or 4H or the Boys and Girls Club – in your own communities, so you know what a difference they can make. Like these programs, Babawatoto teaches kids about the power of hard work, discipline and leadership, skills they can apply to every part of their lives. And seeing the talent, energy and passion these kids brought to that stage today, I’m confident that they’ll be successful wherever their journeys take them.


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: A Warm Welcome to Tanzania

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    When we stepped off the plane in Tanzania today, we received a welcome that warmed our hearts and made us feel right at home. We were greeted by the President of Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete and his wife, Tanzania's First Lady, Mrs. Salma Kikwete. We then took part in an official arrival ceremony which included a military honor guard, the playing of the Tanzanian and American national anthems, and a magnificent dance and drumming performance with hundreds of dancers. And people lined the streets waving American and Tanzanian flags as we drove away.

    Arrival ceremonies like this one are a vital part of diplomacy – they’re how countries and their leaders welcome each other and show their respect for each other. Here in the U.S., we have our own arrival ceremony for visiting leaders where we play their country’s national anthem as well as our own; we give them either a 21 or 19 gun salute (where members of our military fire guns into the air either 21 or 19 times as a show of respect); and both my husband and the foreign leader give brief speeches.

    Later that evening, we host a special dinner where we honor our guests and do our best to make them feel at home here in the U.S. For example, we knew that President Calderon of Mexico was born in a region where the monarch butterflies migrate each spring. So when we held our Mexico State dinner, we had a butterfly theme for our decorations. 

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete pause for a moment of silence

    First Lady Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete pause for a moment of silence while visiting the U.S. Embassy Bombing Memorial at the National Museum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


  • FLOTUS Travel Journal: Robben Island, An Experience We Will Never Forget

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Leslie Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Marian Robinson, tour the Lime Quarry

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Leslie Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Marian Robinson, tour the Lime Quarry on Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. Ahmed Kathrada, a former prisoner in Robben Island Prison, leads their tour. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, our family visited Robben Island for an experience we will never forget. Robben Island is located off the coast of South Africa, and from the 1960s through the 1990s, this Island housed a maximum security prison. Many of the prisoners there – including the guide for our visit, a man named Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada – were activists who worked to bring down Apartheid, the South African government’s policies that discriminated against people of color.  Under Apartheid, people of different races were separated in nearly every part of South African society.  They were forced to attend separate schools, live in separate neighborhoods, even swim at separate beaches – and in nearly every case, the neighborhoods, schools and other facilities for black people were much worse than the ones for white people. 

    Among those imprisoned at Robben Island for fighting Apartheid were three men who went on to become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and the current president, Jacob Zuma.

    So today, as we toured the island, I couldn’t help but think about how this place must have shaped these leaders.  Put yourself in their shoes – all they were doing was fighting to ensure that people in South Africa would be treated equally, no matter what the color of their skin.  And for that, they wound up confined on this remote island, far removed from the world they so desperately hoped to change.