Remarks by The First Lady at Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties

South Court Auditorium

1:12 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you all so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you all.  Rest yourselves.  Good afternoon, everyone.  And welcome to the White House.  Yay!  (Applause.)  It’s still kind of exciting, right?  I still love to say that.  

I want to start by thanking Assembly Vice-Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson for that wonderful introduction and for her tremendous leadership — absolutely.  (Applause.)  And thank you for hosting my husband.  He has talked about his visit endlessly.  (Laughter.)  He says we’re going back, so I hope that me and the girls will come and visit.  I hope so.  (Applause.)  But thank you for all that you’re doing. 

I also want to recognize everyone at the National League of Cities and the Department of Health and Human Services for their tremendous work on this initiative and so many others.  You all are amazing.  We couldn’t do this without you.  Keep up the great work.  I love you all. 

And of course, most important of all, I want to thank all of you for everything that you’re doing through Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties.  Because of your passion and your dedication, in just three short years, 500 communities across America have joined Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties — 500.  (Applause.)  The means that nearly 80 million Americans are now living in a Let’s Move! City, Town or County.  And that is one in four people in this country — one in four people.  (Applause.) 

And I have to say, that is a breathtaking achievement.  But frankly, those numbers don’t even begin to capture the impact that you all are having on kids and families all across this country.  Let’s just take a moment to think about what a day in the life of a child in a Let’s Move! City, Town or County might look like, given all the work that you’ve done.  

Start in the morning.  That child wakes up, takes a ride or walk to school on a bike path or sidewalk that you paved.  Take Knoxville, Tennessee for example.  They have a Walking School Bus program and a Kids Can Bike! program that gets kids from underserved areas pedaling all over the city.  Now, when that child arrives at school -– or maybe at a summer nutrition site -– she might eat a healthy breakfast, and then later, a healthy lunch.  Why?  Because you expanded your school meal programs.  And in New Bedford, Massachusetts they’ve served more than 50,000 meals in the month of July alone.

So now it’s time for recess.  That child might run around in a nearby field because of a joint-use agreement that you signed.  And then she might head to an afterschool program, maybe a sports league that you started.  And maybe later on she goes home to her parents where they cook her a healthy dinner using the MyPlate guidelines from a poster that you put up somewhere in your city.  

Then it’s later on in the evening, after dinner.  And then her family can head to a local park for a little more exercise — a park that you refurbished.  That’s what they’re doing in Jersey City, where they’re transforming an abandoned brownfield site into the largest park in the city.  That’s the kind of impact all of you are having.  From the moment our kids wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night, you all are giving them countless opportunities to lead healthier lives.  

And believe me, I know that this has not been easy.  I know it’s not easy.  I know that all of you are dealing with tight budgets and competing priorities.  And so often, the public conversation frames these issues as an either-or proposition — either our tax dollars go to “soft” things like playgrounds and healthy school meals, or they go to things like jobs and economic development.

But we all know that this is a false choice.  So many of you have told us that when you work to build healthier communities, companies take note, because that’s where they want to set up shop.  They want to create jobs in vibrant communities with strong families and healthy employees.  That’s the kind of ripple effect that you all are having.  And today, we’re seeing that effect in every corner of the country.  

See, back when we first launched Let’s Move! in 2010 — sounds like a long time ago; my kids were down here — (laughter) — we knew that there was no one solution to the problem of childhood obesity.  So we brought together folks from every sector of our society.  We called on parents and doctors and educators, our business leaders, our faith leaders, our local officials –- everyone with a stake in our kids’ future.

And together, over the past five years, we have built what we call a movement on behalf of our kids’ health.  We have truly changed the culture.  We have changed the culture in this country in the way we live and eat.  We’ve changed it.  And you see it every day in your communities.  Fast food places are serving apples and skim milk in their kids’ meals.  Convenience stores are selling fruits and vegetables in places that were once food deserts.  Folks are wearing those fitness bracelets, counting every step.  (Laughter.)  Companies are actually rewarding employees for eating right and exercising.

And let’s just take a look at the numbers.  Today, 1.6 million kids attend healthier daycare centers right when they’re at the very beginning of life.  Nearly 9 million kids attend Let’s Move! Active Schools, where they get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  And of course, because of our new nutrition standards –- standards, by the way, that 95 percent of schools are successfully meeting -– more than 30 million kids are eating healthier school breakfasts and lunches.  There’s also a new survey that shows that 90 percent of Americans actually believe in having these kinds of standards for the food we feed our kids.  

And when we take all of that together, all these changes, they’re starting to add up.  Child obesity rates have finally stopped rising for the first time in a very long time.  And obesity rates are actually falling among our youngest children.  So I’d just — absolutely.  (Applause.)  

So I want you all to know and to not be mistaken — what we’re doing together is actually working.  We’re hitting a real tipping point on this issue.  And numbers like 80 million are a sign that we’re right on the cusp of what can be described as historic change.  But only if we keep on moving forward –- only.  And not just moving forward in the coming months or years, but in the coming decades. 

And that’s really where all you come in.  Because everything that you’re doing right now on the ground, you all are playing a long game on this issue.  You are today, with the work that you’re doing, building the infrastructure we need to continue our progress for generations to come.  Because that playground, that hiking trail that you fought for, that you scraped together money to build -– that’s going to be there long after you leave office.  

And with every healthy meal and snack you provide for kids in your community, you’re not just nourishing them today, you are shaping their habits and their tastes for the rest of their lives, and you’re influencing what they’ll serve their own kids decades from today.  

And now that we finally know what works and we finally see some progress, this just isn’t the time for us to pat ourselves on the back and say job well done.  No, no, this is the time to double down.  And I’ve said this to all of our partners — doubling down.  I just want us to get that concept in our heads.  (Laughter.)  Because when nearly one in three kids in this country is still overweight or obese, this job is far from done. 

And that’s really my challenge to all of you today.  I want you all to truly double down on your efforts.  If you haven’t yet earned all five gold medals, let’s earn them.  And then I want you to bring other cities, towns and counties along with you.  Share good ideas and best practices.  That’s one of the reasons why we brought you here today –- so that you can challenge and learn from each other.  And once you’ve gotten those five gold medals, dig a little deeper and become an All-Star, and help other cities, towns and counties become All-Stars, too.

We all need to work together on this issue, because we know that issues like child nutrition, it’s not about politics.  This is about giving our children a fair shot in life.  It’s about ensuring that they have everything they need, everything we can do in our power to help them fulfill their boundless potential.  

Those are the stakes.  And as you work toward these goals, I want you all to know that I will be with you every step of the way.  I’m in.  I may be heading into my home stretch as First Lady, but I intend to stick with this issue for the rest of my life, and I hope that all of you will, too.  (Applause.)  Because that’s what it’s going to take.

So I’m in.  I’m really in deep.  And today, I want to ask you all, are you in?  Are you ready for this?  (Applause.)  Good.  (Applause.)  Because of you, we’re off to an outstanding start.  And I’m thrilled to hear that you guys are game for more.  I know we can do this.  We’re already doing it.  

And I’m grateful for everything you all have done.  So proud.  So proud to see this milestone being hit.  And I can’t wait to see everything that you all will accomplish in the months and years and decades ahead.

So enjoy the rest of your time here.  Thank you again.  Thank you, thank you.  And continue to lead with the passion and dedication that you’ve shown thus far.

Take care.  God bless.  (Applause.) 

END 
1:25 P.M. EDT