The First Lady
First Lady Visits Department of Education
By Maria Glod
In the first stop of a planned series of visits to federal agencies, first lady Michelle Obama went to the Department of Education today to energize workers by announcing: "I am a product of your work."
During a 10 minute speech with a pep rally atmosphere, Obama plugged the president's stimulus plan, which would pay to renovate thousands of schools, add funding for preschool for disadvantaged children and increase federal dollars for Pell Grants for college students. She said the infusion of cash would prevent teacher layoffs and help children in poverty and those with disabilities.
"This is a good thing to see -- this department fired up and ready to go," Obama said as the crowd of about 350, the maximum allowed under fire code violations, cheered and used their cell phones to snap photos.
"The Department of Education is going to be at the forefront of many of the things that we have to do in this administration and we're going to need that energy in these times of economic challenge," she said.
Michelle Obama also noted the administration's support of innovate approaches such as charter schools and turnaround programs intended to make sweeping changes in long-struggling schools. "There's a lot of work to do, and we're going to need you," she said.
Career staff at the department said it was the first time, as far as they were aware, that a first lady had addressed employees there. Obama appeared on stage with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, her longtime friend and former Chicago schools chief executive. The two were joined by 17 long-time career workers who, together, had logged about 600 years total.
"It's like a rock concert, and I had a front row seat," said Juliette Rizzo, director of exhibits, event planning and agency-wide outreach. "I loved what she said about being a product of our work."
Posted at 4:55 PM ET on Feb 2, 2009
The First Lady
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