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Michelle Obama Gets Language Lesson at Adams Morgan Community Center


Michelle Obama speaking at Mary's Center in Adams Morgan Tuesday. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)


Visiting a community services agency in Adams Morgan today as part of her getting-to-know-the-new neighbors visits around the District, Michelle Obama received a language lesson from preschoolers.

"You don't know Spanish?" a young girl asked incredulously.

"No, and it's ridiculous," the First Lady allowed.

The mostly-Latino kids at Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care were happy to help her along as she read from "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" reports our colleague Richard Leiby. "How do you say brown in Spanish?" she asked. "Will you teach me?" For about 20 minutes, the First Lady abandoned her chair and got down on a purple rug to share circle time with the nine children, who attend a bilingual family literacy program. Afterward, group-hug photo-opp. "Oh, oh, this is delicious," Mrs. Obama said as the tots swarmed her.

It was the First Lady's first official visit to a non-profit organization here; she and her husband previously read to children at a public charter school. She has also been making a thank-you tour of federal agencies that has included remarks promoting President Obama's policy agenda.

Mrs. Obama also met today with teenagers who attend the center's after-school programs, and the conversation turned somber, the high schoolers asking about immigration reform and crime prevention.

Juan Rodriguez, 15, talked about a friend who was stabbed to death in Columbia Heights in December -- "nobody helped him," he said. The killing echoed a well-publicized incident in which many bystanders failed to come to the aid of a man in the same neighborhood who later died of brain injuries. While Mrs. Obama was empathetic about community problems, she reinforced campaign themes about personal responsibility. "You can't pass a law that says treat your neighbor with respect and decency," she said.

By The Reliable Source  |  February 10, 2009; 6:26 PM ET
Categories:  First Family  
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Comments

THE FIRST LADY states, "You can't pass a law that says treat your neighbor with respect and decency."

Well, actually, you can. But the ACLU won't allow it to be posted in public.

Posted by: AlienAmongYou | February 11, 2009 6:11 AM | Report abuse

The First Lady is correct. You cannot legislate morality. It is up to each of us. And shame on"AllenAmongYou" for his cheap shot at the ACLU, who reminds us every day of the rights we enjoy as Americans, how precious they are, and how they need protection. Let us all make a pledge to follow President Obama's lead and return to respectful civic discourse.

Posted by: momccully | February 11, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse


Thanking the ACLU for freedom is like thanking journalists for the First Amendment.

I'll thank them both, but only after I'm finished thanking our men and women in uniform, past and present.

Posted by: AlienAmongYou | February 11, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

You can - actually - legislate morality. We do it every day. Our govt has legislated that it's ok to kill your own baby. If you're a pre-teen, our govt has legislated that you can screw up (have premarital sex and get pregnant, kill the baby) and your parents can never find out. If you commit a terrorist act (ie an act of war outside of any Geneva convention rules) you can still have all the benefits of an aAmerican citizen who wrote a bad check: 3 square meals a day, soccer and volleyball for exercise, your own bible, kuran..,noone can call you names, or hit you, or insult your faith! It's incredible. We legislate morality every day; we just choose to legislate immorality more often.

Posted by: gaelgirl | February 11, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I think gaelgirl is delusional. You cannot legalise morality. Legalizing abortion does not force abortion on people, they are free to choose to have an abortion, or not. Outlawing abortion on the other hand, is an attempt to legalize morality. Morality is a personal choice, any effort to legislate morality leads to discrimination. The Nazi Party was legislating morality when they passed the Nuremburg Laws. You see, morality is a double edged sword - a person's morals might allow them to kill someone just because of their race, but they might find euthenasia of the terminally ill quite immoral, while at the same time agreeing with the euthenasia of the mentally challenged, homosexuals, people of other races, etc. God gave man free choice. It is up to man to decide on his own actions, and yes, sometimes they make horrific mistakes but that is why we have laws against unacceptable behaviour that is harmful to others. As long as your actions don't harm others, or expose others to danger, you should be free to live your life as you see fit.

Posted by: sbeyl | February 11, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

sbeyl
First morality is not personal choice. (those are values) Morality is based on a predetermined code of established right and wrong. (If personal choice were the standard, there would be nothing wrong with the child spitting at Mrs Obama; it may be her choice) here in America, we founded our society on JudeoChristian morality. It is the basis for our laws and our social constructs. Your second incorrect assertion is that morality is based on "what doesn't harm others". Again - you are wrong .. on so many counts. (And might I remind you that your standard falls down in the examle I gave: a baby is killed, a woman's body is violated by the unnatural act, a minor's psyche is forever harmed by the act(s) she committed, an untethered, unstigmatized premarital behavior code leads to more of that behavior which we now know clearly leads to a degraded society...nobody harmed?) A society is not a group of lone souls treading their own path, without interacting with others; the naive belief that "personal choice" constitutes some kind of morality might explain the confusion on the part of our children who can no longer discern right from wrong. It is, in fact, why 7 of the ten commadment s are written in terms of how you are to treat others. You are required to interact with others, and you are required to treat others in a certain way. As much as anti-Christians would liek to beleive otherwise, our country very much legislates morality -- despite our more recent turn at legislating immorality.

Posted by: gaelgirl | February 11, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Every day, we make decisions based upon the age of humans. We decide, for example, that a three-year-old child can't drive, vote, or serve in the military. Age is built into the Constitution as one of the qualifications for some federal electoral offices, as is time of residency, or even place of birth.

Birth: that's the baseline. We don't celebrate conception days, we celebrate "birthdays." And having an abortion isn't "killing a baby," because of time.

A baby, once it is born, has many (but not all) of the rights of any other human being. It has, in short, "personhood." It is demonstrably there, demonstrably alive.

Many pregnancies terminate themselves before the carrier ever realizes she's pregnant. Pregnancies abort themselves after the carrier knows she's pregnant, but before it comes to term.

Some conceptions become, at birth, "babies." Some do not, for whatever reason. Whose "moral failing" are they? Anyone who opposes abortion is free never to have one. But the contents of one's own uterus are not, really, anyone's business except the owner of that uterus.

Posted by: Palladia1 | February 11, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

As our new First Lady spends time with citizens of all ages, she'll learn much,
especially from the honesty of the young.
Her greatest assets are her genuineness
and warmth. I hope she will consider writing a weekly column like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt did. It could become a valuable part of the nation's dialogue.
My wife recently told me she collected Mrs. Roosevelt's columns in a scrapbook
as a young girl. I believe the columns influenced my wife in becoming the courageous, independent-thinking woman
she is, highly respected wherever she
goes. - John Wright, Jr., Birmingham AL

Posted by: wright5529 | February 11, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Look - the Obamas as First Family have brought about a change in culture already. A discussion about morality and ethics is raging here in the comment section of a GOSSIP COLUMN. This is great, this is what I hope will be one of the lasting legacies of the Obamas, a new concern for the way we Americans do things as a culture. Bravo, Michelle!

Posted by: annieb346 | February 11, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

gaelgirl says "If you commit a terrorist act (ie an act of war outside of any Geneva convention rules) you can still have all the benefits of an aAmerican citizen who wrote a bad check: 3 square meals a day, soccer and volleyball for exercise, your own bible, kuran..,noone can call you names, or hit you, or insult your faith! It's incredible. We legislate morality every day; we just choose to legislate immorality more often."

Wasn't it Jesus who said that how you treat the least of these is how you have treated him? Somehow it seems you are suggesting that the people imprisoned at Guantanamo don't deserve to be treated humanely, or that they SHOULD be hit.

Remember that some of those imprisoned there are NOT terrorists, just people who got caught up in a sweep or were turned in by neighbors. Many have been released all ready (even after years of imprisonment), and most of those have simply returned to their homes.

Would you think it was okay if they imprisoned you for years away from your home and family, even though you were innocent, but gave you your own copy of the bible? That is a far more severe penalty than that suffered by an American who writes a bad check.

Is it moral to minimize the suffering of others, or to assume everyone held at Guantanamo is guilty?

Posted by: dnfree | February 11, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"You can - actually - legislate morality. Our govt has legislated that it's ok to kill your own baby...If you commit a terrorist act you can still have all the benefits...3 square meals a day...It's incredible. posted by gaelgirl"

As you put it in your response to another writer, "again, you are wrong--on so many counts." Your Orwellian doublespeak equates NOT legislating morality with someone actually legislating it. It's straight out of the novel 1984! If we don't pass laws controlling someone's behavior, obviously that is NOT legislating morality (even if you think we should legislate, which is a separate question). I am very much opposed to abortion, because it stops a developing human life, but I certainly won't redefine terms to call that potential human being even at the fertilized egg stage a baby! When you make extreme statements such as "our government as legislated that it's OK to kill your own baby," that double-speak loses those whom you might have been able to convince with more honest dialogue. The honest statement would have been that the government FAILED to legislate or otherwise outlaw abortion. No matter how horrified you are by abortion, misstating the facts simply destroys your impact. Similarly, it is ridiculous to state that locking up and torturing people because they MIGHT be guilty is wonderful treatment. That is what is incredible. Do you have any respect for the Constitution? If the majority believed the way you do, we would be living in an Iranian-style theocracy.

Posted by: rbharris50 | February 11, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

john wright that was a lovely comment. i had no idea mrs roosevelt wrote columns. first ladies have influence, they've been good role models for civic responsibility.

Posted by: cml219 | February 11, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

dnfree wrote:

"Remember that some of those imprisoned there are NOT terrorists, just people who got caught up in a sweep or were turned in by neighbors."

Those imprisoned were there because they may be terrorists. Who says definitely they were NOT?

Posted by: ECDH | February 12, 2009 5:24 AM | Report abuse

"You don't know Spanish?" a young girl asked incredulously.

"No, and it's ridiculous," the First Lady allowed.

No, it is not ridiculous. Language difference divides people more than race, religion, or any other factor because it prevents communication.

Language has one purpose - communication. Introduce two or more languages and ease of communication is reduced, with no tangible benefit gained.

In the UK, every local council employs translators at the taxpayers' expense because there is no national campaign to make English the only language of official communication. All sorts of excuses are brought up when making adults learn and use English is mooted. Over a hundred different languages are spoken by so-called British children at school, with English the only common one.

Is that what Mrs Obama envisages in America by saying it's "ridiculous" that she does not speak Spanish? Is she going to learn Sioux, Apache, etc as well?

Once Latin united most of Europe;
today the USA's motto is "Ex Pluribus Unum" - from many one, for those who only speak Spanish and English. Go down the Mrs Obama route, and the already "from one language two" philosophy will become "from one language who knows how many".

George W Bush had trouble with just one language; why make everyone's life more complicated when it need not be? KISS - keep it simple, Spaniards.

Posted by: ECDH | February 12, 2009 5:43 AM | Report abuse

ECDH replies to me by saying "Those imprisoned were there because they may be terrorists. Who says definitely they were NOT?"

Yes, and I think you MAY be a thief, or even a murderer. So should you be locked up for several years without even the right to find out the charges against you?

Even if the government imprisoned some of the people at Guantanamo believing that they might be terrorists, it is incumbent upon the government to find out the facts as quickly as possible and release those who are not. It isn't moral to lock people up for years on unfounded suspicions.

And in fact it IS known that some of them were not, but were turned in by neighbors for a reward, or picked up by mistake. Maybe that doesn't concern you because it didn't happen to YOUR family, but to a poor person from somewhere else in the world? I go back again to Jesus saying, "If you did it to the least of these, you did it to me."

Posted by: dnfree | February 12, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

In less than a month’s time, First lady Michelle Obama has visited more Washington, DC community/civic organizations and schools than Michelle Fenty has in two years.

Posted by: TheMadnessShop | February 12, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

dnfree said And in fact it IS known that some of them were not, but were turned in by neighbors for a reward, or picked up by mistake. Maybe that doesn't concern you because it didn't happen to YOUR family, but to a poor person from somewhere else in the world? I go back again to Jesus saying, "If you did it to the least of these, you did it to me."

If dnfree is privy to such details about these people, he should put them to Barack Obama pronto.

What concerns me is that "MY family" does not get wiped out the way others are getting wiped out by the Muslim fanatics who believe they should be doing what a man 1400 years ago says they should do.

As for quoting Jesus at me, you're way off target there - I'm a realist and not a Christian. You may recall all the IRA murderers you Americans bankrolled for decades were also Christians - Catholic ones. And they didn't give a toss about what Jesus may or may not have said 2000 years ago.

Posted by: ECDH | February 14, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

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