The First Lady
Michelle Obama Gives Agriculture Dept. a Seedling with a Past
By DeNeen Brown
First lady Michelle Obama continued her "listening tour" of federal agencies today, this time visiting the Department of Agriculture, where the first lady again thanked government employees for their service.
"Great leaders are only as great as the people who hold them up," Obama told an audience of about 400 employees. "And, again, that's where you all come in. They can only do the work that they do because there are thousands and thousands of dedicated federal workers like you who are willing to make the sacrifices in their own lives, with their own families, to devote the time and energy that is so needed to get the work done."
Obama praised Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for creating a project to plant gardens at the department.
"That's a very good thing," Obama said, "and kicking off this effort to build these gardens all over the world in all of the facilities of the USDA, because I'm a big believer in community gardens, both because of their beauty and for their access to providing fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across this nation and the world."
She presented the department with a seedling, a tiny, skinny plant in a clay pot that sat at the side of the podium.
"I brought a little gift to get this garden going," Obama said. "It's right here in this pot. It is a seedling," she said to laughter.
"It will be beautiful one day. But right now it's a seedling. And it's a special seedling because it comes from the Jackson magnolia tree. And the Jackson magnolia tree sits on the South Portico of the White House. And it's a special tree because it was planted by President Jackson in honor of his wife, Rachel, who passed right before they moved into the White House. So I hope that this seedling brings years of joy and beauty to the garden that will be planted here, in the same way it has brought beauty to the White House for 180 years. So please accept this gift from the White House."
Obama then turned to the president's economic stimulus plan, saying that it will help rural communities that are suffering economically.
"The President is taking steps to turn our economy around and help struggling families," Obama said. "And the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program will insure more children, including those in rural communities, so that they get the health care that they need."
She said new investments in renewable energy will "bring new jobs and economic opportunity to rural communities who will play a central role in creating America's clean energy future."
And, she added that the president's home mortgage rescue plan would help "rural families refinance their mortgages, modify loans and secure loans with more affordable monthly payments. And this effort is not going to just help keep families in their homes, it's going to help strengthen rural neighborhoods and communities across this country."
Posted at 4:32 PM ET on Feb 19, 2009
The First Lady
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