According to First Lady Michelle Obama, Thursday was "a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, awesomely-inspiring day." That's because Mrs. Obama was in Chicago to announce the launch Let’s Move Active Schools, an unprecedented effort to bring physical education back to America’s schools.
The problem is severe -- we are raising the most sedentary generation in history. Only six states require P.E. in all grades, and only one in three kids is physically active on a daily basis. In addition to the health risks associated with an inactive lifestyle, including diabetes and obesity, physical activity has been shown to lower anxiety and stress, and fight depression. In addition, physically active kids do better in school, with studies showing that physical activity enhances important skills, like concentration and problem solving, which have been shown to improve academic performance.
Let’s Move! Active Schools is designed to address these challenges by spurring innovative solutions and offering customized support every step of the way. It empowers schools to find free or low-cost ways to incorporate movement before, during, and after the school day. And thanks to funding and other resources being provided by NIKE, Inc., the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente, and the General Mills Foundation, schools can connect to grant opportunities, online resources, personal assistance, and hands-on professional development. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation are the managing organizations guiding the development and implementation of the program.
In her remarks at the McCormick Place event, which was part of the Let's Move 3rd Anniversary Tour, Mrs. Obama said that the initiative is about "so much more" than physical activity. "This is about giving our kids the structure and support they need to thrive in every single aspect of their lives. It’s about giving them something to strive for, something to hope for, somewhere to belong. And physical activity is a critical part of that broader effort."
But in speaking to a crowd of more than 6,000 Chicago school kids before kicking off an energetic round of activities, Mrs. Obama made it clear that if the students were inspired by any of the award-winning athletes who joined her on the stage, or by her own example of going from Chicago's South Side to Pennsylvania Ave., their road ahead was in their own hands.
It is so important for each of you to realize that every day you, and you alone, have the power to choose the life you want for yourself. Whether you spend your day watching TV or whether you use that time to pick up your books and finish your homework -- see, that’s your choice. Whether you fill your bodies with chips and candy or fruits and vegetables -- see, that’s on you. Whether you sit around all day playing video games or get up and move your bodies -- these are all the choices that will determine who you will become and what you can achieve.
If you guys remember just one thing from our time today, it’s this: Although I am the First Lady of the United States of America... I am no different from you.
Look, I grew up in the same neighborhoods, went to the same schools, faced the same struggles, shared the same hopes and dreams that all of you share. I am you. And the only reason that I am standing up here today is that back when I was your age, I made a set of choices with my life -- do you hear me -- choices.
I chose not to listen to the doubters and the haters. I chose to shut those voices out of my head and listen to my own voice. I chose to ignore any negative things that were happening around me, and instead focus on all the wonderful things I had going on inside of me. I chose to focus on what I could control.
So let me tell you what I did. I worked hard in school to get good grades. I listened to my teachers. I behaved in school. I learned from everyone and everything around me. I stayed active. I didn’t do -- I did everything that I could to keep my body healthy and fit. I did everything within my power to prepare myself for great things. And eventually all of my work paid off -- I went to college, I want to law school. And because I had a good education, I could get a good job so that my family wouldn’t have to worry about money and I could live in a house where my daughters could have their own rooms.
And the lesson I learned along the way is that it did not matter where I was from. It didn’t matter how much my parents had. What mattered was how hard I was willing to work, and how deeply I was willing to believe in myself.
And one of the main reasons I wanted all of you to be here today with us is that that is true for every single one of the folks up on this stage here today. They can tell you that there is no magic to their achievements. No one waved a wand and turned these folks into champions. They turned themselves into champions by doing the hard work, getting their education, exercising every day, eating healthy, practicing their skills over and over and over again.
And we’re all here today to tell you that you can do the same thing.