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At EPA, First Lady Focuses on Pollution's Cost to Children

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First lady Michelle Obama visits the Environmental Protection Agency. (Video by DeNeen L. Brown / The Washington Post)

By DeNeen L. Brown
Once again first lady Michelle Obama visited a federal agency. Once again hundreds of workers stood in the cold in long lines to see her. Once again they cheered. Once again she thanked them for their work and told them how important their work is for the new administration, the country.

First lady Michelle Obama visited the Environmental Protection Agency today, thanking its employees and explaining the recent economic stimulus package.

"To the hardworking men and women of the EPA," Obama told a crowd of about 1,000 people in the gilded auditorium, "it's a new day. And the truth is, we can't wait one more minute. The recently signed recovery package includes billions of dollars for the EPA to continue to clean up our communities and improve the health of our fellow Americans. The time is now."

She told the workers their jobs were crucial to improving the health and safety of children. "This is what it is all about: the future," Obama said. "And in many ways, it starts with all of you. You ensure that the water we drink is safe, that the air we breathe is clean, and that the polluted fields and abandoned factories in our neighborhoods all over this nation are cleaned up and restored."

She talked about seeing pollution and its destruction and effects on communities personally. "Having grown up on the South Side of Chicago and spent a good part of my career working to help families in low-income communities, where I've seen brownfields piling up and affecting kids all over this nation, I know firsthand the role the EPA has in reducing illnesses such as asthma and lead poisoning that can start in childhood but have a long-lasting effect in adulthood," she said. "There are thousands and thousands of children across this country that are affected each and every day."

Obama explained that President Obama had promised to make science the focus of environmental policies, create more energy-efficient buildings and fuel-efficient cars, and increase the country's renewable energy.

"Your work will not only save our planet and clean up our environment; it's going to transform our economy and create millions of well-paying jobs. You know this better than anyone in the country," Obama said. "So there is a lot riding on your shoulders.... I know that you are up to the challenge. I can feel it in this room."

She thanked the EPA workers for their passion. And sacrifices. And told them they had partners in the White House.

"And you also have the unwavering support of a phenomenal President, Barack Obama," she said to applause. "So Barack Obama is going to need you. Michelle Obama is going to need you. Malia and Sasha Obama are going to need you -- and millions of children just like them are going to need you rolling up your sleeves and rededicating and recommitting, knowing that the work is going to be tough. But everything you do, every piece of blood, sweat and tears that you pour into the work is going to make the difference in our nation, in our planet."

Posted at 3:03 PM ET on Feb 26, 2009  | Category:  The First Lady
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Over 8 (miserable) "W" yrs Laura Bush never uttered anything resembling that which Michelle Obama commented to EPA workers today.

What a difference of mind, culture and empathy for our world - like coming from a smog-beset, dank valley out into the clear, crisp air, sunshine above.

What is it that them thar olde Republicans like so much about stinky air & stinky water? Does it smell like them?

Posted by: hchiba | February 26, 2009 9:17 PM

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