The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by The First Lady at Mother's Day Tea
State Dining Room
3:15 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, isn’t this lovely -- and very civilized. (Laughter.) Hello everyone, and thank you so much for joining us here at the White House as we gather to celebrate Mother’s Day and honor all of the extraordinary women in our lives.
Today is also Military Spouses Appreciation Day, and we have some of the spouses and mothers of military members who are here with us, so let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.) We are forever grateful for your service and inspired by your strength. So we -- as always, Jill and I remain supportive. We will continue to do everything we can to support your efforts. And I know Jill is here. Where is Jill? There you are. (Laughter.) There she is. Let’s give Jill a round of applause, too. (Applause.)
I also want to thank former First Lady Rosalynn Carter for being here. Mrs. Carter, where are you? I can’t keep up with everyone. (Applause.)
Mrs. Carter, you have been just a wonderful support and a source of knowledge for me during my time here. You have been so generous. We try to have lunch together whenever you come into the city, and I just have to say that the time that we spend together means a great deal. So I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support.
As many of you know, Mrs. Carter is an advocate for mental health work. She’s just written a book, and we’re going to be doing more work together on post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health. So she hasn’t stopped moving yet. (Laughter.) You can’t keep her down.
Mrs. Carter -- yes?
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.
And Mrs. Carter is also joined by her granddaughter, Sara. And we thought we were going to have Mrs. Carter’s great-granddaughter, Josephine. We were going to have four generations of Carter women, but she got a little fussy -- (laughter) -- and mom was like, she’s got to go home. (Laughter.) But maybe next time I'll get to see her.
I’m also pleased that Tricia Nixon Cox is here, President Nixon’s daughter. Please stand. (Applause.) And Susan and Anne Eisenhower who are President Eisenhower’s granddaughters, they are here, as well. Susan and Anne, please stand. (Applause.)
Thank you all for being here. It means so much. We have -- the girls’ and I, our favorite picture is your wedding picture -- (laughter) -- that is in the colonnade downstairs. We all stand and look at that and think about -- (laughter) -- the wedding. They’re not thinking about marriage, by the way. Don't write that down on a blog. (Laughter.) They just like the picture. (Laughter.)
And of course there’s the photo of President Eisenhower meeting with Civil Rights leaders that -- in 1958 that is in the Oval Office.
So there is much history in this room today and I’m so pleased to welcome these generations of women back to the White House. It is just an honor to have you all.
If you look around the room, really that’s sort of the theme here today. We have many generations here this afternoon: We’ve got teenagers and retirees, we’ve got family members and friends, we’ve got Cabinet Secretaries, and students, and everything else in between.
And many of you came with a woman who means a great deal to your life. Yes -- oh, really? (Laughter and applause.) So mothers, daughters, granddaughters, mentors, mentees, sisters, best friends, it’s sort of a wonderful combination of women who are important to us.
The people here today showcase just how crucial women are in guiding our families, and in our neighborhoods, and in our country, as well.
They’re the shoulder that we lean on as individuals, but collectively these are the shoulders that form the foundation of our communities. They’re our friends, our teachers, our mentors, our bosses.
They find time to drive community projects and car pools. (Laughter.) They lead our businesses and our birthday parties. Our lives and our communities are blessed by everything, big and small, that mothers and mother figures give us every single day.
And that’s really what Mother’s day is all about: showing our gratitude for all that they do.
And it’s about attempting to give back just some of the love and the care that these women have given us. And that’s really a big ticket to fill on just a single day. I mean, when you think about it and try to do the math, I mean, do 15 or 20 sleepless nights during high school equal a bouquet of flowers? (Laughter.) Maybe some chocolates or a brunch? (Laughter.) I don't know, I don’t know. (Laughter.) See, the mothers with teenagers really laughed at that one. (Laughter.) I don't quite know that yet.
The answer is really there’s no way to quantify just how important these mothers, these women are in our lives. And there’s no way that I could ever fully measure all that my own mommy has done for me. This is my mommy. (Applause.)
This woman who tries to take absolutely no credit for who I am for some reason, she is my rock. She has pulled me up when I’ve stumbled. She’s pulled me back when I’ve run out of line, talking a little too much. She’ll snap me up. She really does push me to be the best woman that I can be, truly, as a professional, and as a mother, and as a friend. And she has always, always, always been there for me. And as our family have grown, she’s managed to expand her love for all of us.
And raising our girls in the White House with my mom -- oh, not going to do this -- (laughter) -- is a beautiful experience. And the opportunity to have three generations living in the White House, it’s beautiful. And I’m pretty sure the President is happy about it, too. (Laughter.)
In this world there is so much going on, we know that we’re blessed, the Obamas. We are. Even though we live in the White House, we know that our day-to-day family interaction isn’t really different from families living in Atlanta or Sioux Falls or Tucson, because everyone is busy. Ours is just televised. Everyone is doing the best job that they can to raise their kids. Everyone is looking for support.
And in his Mother’s Day proclamation in 1979, President Carter wrote: “In this time when the family is subjected to many new pressures, the job of nurturing future generations is often both more difficult and more important than ever.” And it’s as true today that proclamation as it was 31 years ago. Really, one person cannot do it alone. And for any of us who think we can or should, we should just get over it.
We all need the support of someone in our lives.
For as singularly as important as my mother has been in my life, there are so many other women who have also played significant roles in my development.
The new perspectives that I learned from teachers and co-workers has really helped to shape me, too. So it doesn’t always have to be a mother or a grandmother. We each have those people in our lives who have given us a sense of ourselves by giving us a piece of themselves.
And that’s one of the reasons why we started the White House Leadership and Mentoring Initiative here, even with our busy schedules. And the women who work here are busy. We believe in the importance of giving our young mentees a piece of ourselves.
And we’ve got some of our mentees here with us today, and I want you all to stand. I want our mentees to stand. (Applause.) You all look so pretty! (Applause.) They don't usually get this dressed up when they come regularly. (Laughter.) So I barely recognize you. (Laughter.) You all can sit down.
These promising young women have been with us for the past few months, and we’ve had our share of fun stuff that we’ve done. We’ve gone to events together. A few of them have gotten to ride in my motorcade with me. It’s kind of cool every now and then, right? (Laughter.) They’ve come out to some of my events. We’ve gotten to eat the desserts from the last State Dinner before anybody else. (Laughter.) Remember that? We’ve done some community service together. You guys hustled to get some food packaged. I was quite impressed -- very focused. And we met with Supreme Court justices. Wasn’t that amazing? Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor spent a long time with us, and it was pretty powerful.
But this program isn’t just about doing fun stuff together. It’s also about ensuring that these women really see their possibilities, right? It’s about helping them realize that they can be leaders of tomorrow, and that's what we expect, and showing them that they can create their own opportunities. That's what we talk about, right?
We want them to imagine the possibility that they could one day be a Cabinet Secretary, or an officer in the military who mentors a young girl once a week. We want them to imagine being business leaders who balance their kids and their professional lives.
And there are so many of these stories right here in this room. Now, they may have different characters and soundtracks, right, but whether you grew up on Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin or Beyonce -- (laughter) -- each story here is important.
We share so much as women. The advice we’ve received from someone who cared. The friend who helped us clear hurdles that we thought were too high. The way our mother looked at us when we made her proud –- and when we made her not so proud. (Laughter.) You all know the look, right? (Laughter.)
So today is really a day to enjoy one another. I encourage you all to share some of those stories. As I always say to my mentees: Talk, ask questions, poke, prod, open your mouth. And, you know, let’s just celebrate each other.
Thank you all for taking the time to come. Thank you, Mommy. (Laughter.) I love you. And let’s have some tea. (Applause.)
3:27 P.M. EDT