3:39 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is very special. And thank you all for being here. Thrilled to welcome so many young athletes — and these are really great athletes — to the White House for a very special White House Sports and Fitness Day.
I want to thank Secretary Azar. Thank you, Secretary. Fantastic job you’re doing. (Applause.) Assistant Secretary Giroir, and Surgeon General Adams for being here. That’s great. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thanks also to Ivanka for her leadership in refocusing the Council. She’s worked so hard on this. She works hard on everything, actually. (Applause.) Huh? Come here.
I just want to thank — and she really, she’s helping to bring together all these amazing leaders and athletes who will work to break down barriers to youth sports participation and empower each child to reach his or her full potential through sport and through play.
I also want to thank the many state and local officials here. There are a lot of them here. Some of them I recognize, some of whom are actually quite famous, actually. And they’re all here today to support in helping to make this day and the Council a tremendous success. I think that’s what it’s going to be. It will be a great, great success.
I’m delighted to welcome the announced members of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. These leaders are committed to getting America’s youth onto the field and into the game. The Council will be co-chaired by three of the biggest legends in American sports history. That’s true. First of all, one of baseball’s greatest to ever play the game. Thirteen-time all-star pitcher for the Yankees. I have watched him win so many games. Does winning get boring to you, Mariano?
THE PRESIDENT: Never, right?
RIVERA: Never, never, never. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve watched him win so many. The incredible Mariano Rivera. (Applause.) And I have to tell you, I was with some people the other day, some very knowledgeable baseball people, and they were talking, “Who was the greatest pitcher ever?” And you don’t think of a reliever as the greatest. And three of them said, “Mariano was the greatest to ever pitch.” I would say that’s not bad. Right?
RIVERA: No, that’s not bad at all. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard that, right? He’s heard that before.
Second, a giant of American football, an incredible guy. I know him; he’s my friend. And he was a big supporter right from the beginning. It’s always good when they know you and they support you. If they know you and they don’t support you, that’s trouble. Right? The great Herschel Walker. What an amazing guy. (Applause.) Thanks, Herschel.
And finally, three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball. The really incredible — and I’ve watched her so much, mostly on television, unfortunately — Misty May-Treanor. Incredible talent. (Applause.)
And you know, we have Bill Belichick is also — and he’s working already with the team. But he’s one of the great coaches ever, without question. And he’s my friend.
And we have the Wake Forest NCAA championship tennis team here. Where are they? Are they around here some — oh, look at these guys. One of them is 6’11”. (Applause.) I assume he has a very, very powerful serve. And Patrick is back there. But congratulations. That’s a tremendous achievement. They’ve won just about everything in tennis. That team is fantastic. And we have a beautiful tennis court if you guys want to practice. Okay? Anytime. So that’s Wake Forest.
And there’s a man that went to Wake Forest named Arnold Palmer. And not a bad golfer. Right? Not a bad golfer. He was something special. The Demon Deacon’s tennis team. Thank you very much. It’s great that you’re here. Congratulations. (Applause.)
So all of these titans of American sport know that many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned on the field of competition. There, young Americans will discover — that’s what they do, they discover — they’re learning all the time the importance of teamwork, social skills — Do I have social skills? I don’t know. I have social media, that’s for sure. (Laughter.) I don’t know about skill, but I have a lot of media — and the ability to overcome adversity, making lifelong friends all along the way.
The skills learned out on the track field, and the court, and the diamond, and the gridiron, and the golf course, and those tennis courts are skills that will serve young Americans for the rest of their lives.
I want to thank all of the councilmembers who are here with us today — incredible group of people. Each of you joined this important effort because athletes have meant so much to your own lives, and you want to share that, with great love and great affection, for the next generation. People have tremendous respect for these great athletes. I grew up — so much respect for the athletes.
You know that sports teach young people the value of patience, and perseverance, hard work, and determination. You also know these experiences can’t be replicated on a cell phone or a game console; they really have to be learned and lived on the field of practice, with lots of sweat, lots of hard work, and lots of determination. And you’re winners all.
Participating in sports builds character, forges friendships, tears down barriers, and brings people from all walks of like closer together. I’ve loved sports all of my life. I always loved the people of sports, but I have loved sports all of my life.
Sports also helps kids stay off the street and stay out of trouble. Students who participate in sports have up to 40 percent higher test scores. That one I’ve never heard. That’s pretty impressive. That’s pretty impressive. Are 15 percent more likely to attend college and have 8 percent higher annual earnings later on.
Yet, in recent years, youth participation in sports has been declining. In 2016, only 37 percent of young kids played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45 percent from 10 years ago. And the decline has been even worse among students from low-income families. We must reverse these trends, and we will. We’re making it possible for you to do that.
Therefore, for the first time in history, I have directed this council to work with the White House and Secretary Azar to develop a national strategy to increase youth participation. Can you handle it? Huh? He can handle a lot, this guy.
We want every American child to know the amazing feeling when they serve that final ace, like our great team over there. They served a lot of aces, didn’t you? When they beat the buzzer, when they drive across that goal line, or when they hit it out of the park, we want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with knowing “you left it all on the field” — a very great expression. We use it in business. We use it in everything. “You left it on the field.” And we got that expression from sports.
But most of all, we want our youth to learn these valuable lessons while creating opportunities for a better future for themselves, their families, and their great communities that they love.
To begin the work of the President’s Council and to underscore just how important sports are for America’s youth, it’s now my honor to kick off an exciting White House Field Day. That’s very, very valuable grass that you’re sitting on, all right? Doesn’t get any more valuable.
We have volleyball Misty May. We have soccer, track and field, baseball, flag football, and we have golf. I love golf. So to everyone here today, I say: Work hard, get in the game, play to win, and, most of all, have a good time. Have fun.
Thank you all for being in the White House. This is a very special day. It’s a very special place. And have a great life. We have a great country. Have a great life. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much.
3:53 P.M. EDT