The First Lady
At Cinco de Mayo Event, Prayers from First Lady for Swine Flu Sufferers
By DeNeen L. Brown
First lady Michelle Obama told students at a school in Northwest Washington, D.C., to send "thoughts and prayers" to people who were suffering from the swine flu.
"At a time that we're celebrating Mexican culture and heritage, it's so important for us to think about some of the challenges that the folks in Mexico are facing right now," Obama told a group of students at the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School. "And we want to make sure that we're sending our thoughts and our prayers out to people as they're getting well, and the rest of the people around the country as they're getting well, from folks who have gotten the flu and all that kind of stuff, right? So we want to send good thoughts to everyone, okay?"
The remarks came during a day-early celebration of Cinco de Mayo. "Feliz Cuatro de Mayo," Obama teasingly told the students. "Why? Because what's tomorrow, really? ... Tomorrow is really actually Cinco de Mayo."
The First Lady clapped as students performed dances from Latin America and sang songs in Spanish. After the performances, Obama spoke about her goals as first lady: promoting education, public service and opening up the White House to people in the community. She encouraged students to get involved in public service. And she told them about a program she had started to invite teenagers from D.C. public schools to work as interns at the White House.
"But in order to be a part of this program, you have to have your stuff together, right? You all know that, right?" Obama said. "And by having your stuff together, it means that you have to do what? What are some of the things that you need to be doing now in order to get really good internships? What do you guys think you need to be doing?"
"Working!" one student shouted.
"Studying," another said. "Reading!... Listening!"
She told the students that it was important to for them to challenge themselves and not to be afraid to fail.
"I tell my kids, I want you to be comfortable with failing, because if you learn how to fail, then you're not afraid to do what? To try, right?"
Then she opened the floor to questions.
"But I have to say, make them very easy questions," she said. "because it's very nerve-wracking being up here, and there are cameras back there and everything. Please ask me something I can answer."
"What's your grandma's name," a little girl asked.
"What's my grandma's name, or what's Malia and -- what's my mom's name, or what's Malia and Sasha's name?" Obama said. "Her name is Marian Robinson, but we call her 'grandma.'"
The crowd laughed.
"Thank you for that question. See? I knew that. I knew that one."
The final question came from a little girl with red hair.
"I'm eight years old," the girl said, "and I wanted to know what has surprised you mostly about the White House."
"Oh, see, this is a question; serious. What has surprised me most? I think -- you know, I didn't -- I didn't know that I would have this much fun doing what I'm doing. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how hard it would be. I didn't know how much work it would be. I didn't know completely what to expect. But what I found is that this is a really good job."
She told them the role of first lady has allowed her to shine the spotlight on her passion: public service.
"And being the first lady is like the icing on the cake of helping other people," she said. "In this role, I have a big platform. I can come by your school, and people will follow, and they get to see what's going on here, and they get to see your faces, and we get to remind them why education is important, and why investing in you guys is so good, and the whole world will see you dancing and singing just because I came by to say hi.
"Or I can plant a garden, something as small as planting a garden, and the whole world will pay attention, and then we can talk about the importance of not just gardening but of eating good food, right, of making sure you guys eat fruits and vegetables and that they taste good.
"I can get my kids a dog and we can talk about the importance of young people taking responsibility for their pets, because if you ask for a pet, you got to take care of it, right? So there's a lot I can do to help the public, and it's been fun and surprisingly fun for me."
Posted at 3:57 PM ET on May 4, 2009
The First Lady
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