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Michelle Obama announces effort to help kids exercise at school

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:27AM



As dance music roared throughout the hall, first lady Michelle Obama kicked up her knees and pumped her arms in a high-energy, onstage workout at Chicago’s McCormick Place on Thursday as she announced a first-of-its-kind initiative to expand exercise in schools nationwide.

Mrs. Obama, along with a star-studded cast of Olympic and professional athletes, led more than 6,000 Chicago Public School students in a synchronized workout after giving them a tough talk about how she, too, grew up on the South Side, and it was up to them to make their lives better.

A key ingredient to keeping a sane mind in a tough neighborhood and learning leadership and team principles is through competitive sports and staying active, she said. Mrs. Obama announced a public-private partnership with Nike called “Let’s Move. Active Schools,” which uses private money to bring physical ed and activities into schools and before and after programs.

Mrs. Obama gave a passionate pitch to kids, telling them essentially to look at her achievement as a guide.

“I am you!” she told them. The first lady told them she grew up without much money. Her family lived in a small apartment, and she shared a tiny room with her brother, Craig. She said it was so noisy sometimes, she couldn’t think. When she asked the students if they knew what she was talking about, they cheered and nodded.

Mrs. Obama told the students it’s their choice to eat candy and chips instead of fruits and vegetables.

“You gotta turn off the TV. Move away from the SCREEN!” the first lady implored.

She told them she got to where she was because she worked diligently in school.

“You got one job at this age, and that’s to be the best student you can be,” Mrs. Obama said. “Do your homework, not just when you feel like it.”

Driving home the point was a star-studded cast of Olympians and professional athletes, including tennis great Serena Williams, gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas and NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Also speaking at the event was Nike CEO Mark Parker who announced a $50 million investment over five years into training, sports and expanded physical education at schools. The money will be given out as grants.

Parker cited research showing that introducing kids to sports in their first 10 years of life creates early positive experiences in kids, making them more active adults.

Schools can visit the program’s website, www.letsmoveschools.org to get signed up.

The effort is one of the newest parts of Mrs. Obama’s 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as “Let’s Move,” which she has spent the week promoting.

“We know that kids love to move. But we also know that America’s kids are the least active that they’ve ever been in history,” said Lisa MacCallum, Nike’s access to sport vice president.

“It’s nationwide, which means that every school across the United States has an equitable opportunity to get in there and tap into what are new unprecedented resources,” MacCallum said. “We will have a special emphasis on the vulnerable schools. We’ve made the access really easy, but we’ve left it up to the experts to make sure we get to the most vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with the media pool in Chicago, Mrs. Obama talked about criticism for her recent media appearances, including upstaging Jack Nicholson at the Oscars on Sunday.
The first lady shrugged if off.

“I don’t think about that stuff,” she said. Mrs. Obama said criticism of her recent appearances doesn’t bother her.

“My bangs set off a national conversation,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of talking going on. Everybody’s kitchen table conversation is now accessible to everybody else. It’s absolutely not surprising … Anyone in this position has a huge spotlight, and in modern-day media, the spotlight just gets more intense. I don’t attribute this to me or Barack. The culture has just shifted.”



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