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Opinion: Michelle Obama promotes physical activity at White House Easter Egg Roll

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Yoga classes. Cooking demonstrations. Musician Fergie. And of course the proverbial egg roll, with President Obama acting as coach.

Welcoming 30,000 children and families to the White House, Obama called the Easter Egg Roll, launched in 1878, ‘one of the greatest White House traditions.’ And he clearly enjoyed himself with the kids, saying, ‘This reminds us that this is the people’s house.’

First daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, were also on hand, though clearly the two had been advised that it would be impolitic for them to win the egg contest.

With children seated in front of him, the president read from ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ by Maurice Sendak, calling it ‘one of my favorite books’ and turning the book toward the kids so they could see the pictures. Then he asked, ‘Are there any wild things here? I just want to make sure,’ and issued what the Associated Press called a soft wild-thing-like growl along with the cheering of the crowd.

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But this is Michelle Obama‘s first year as first lady, so the 2009 Easter Egg Roll at the White House had a decided ‘teaching moment’ kind of feel, dedicated to promoting physical activity and perhaps a gateway to a campaign against childhood obesity.

The Obama White House allotted tickets for the event to gay and lesbian parents who had been excluded in years past. And this year’s eggs were the greenest ever -- made from hardwood logged from environmentally sustainable forests.

Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, took turns reading ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,’ by Laura Joffe Numeroff. The first daughters turned the pages of an over-sized copy of the book to show the illustrations.

‘Our goal today is just to have fun,’ she said. ‘We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We’ve got yoga, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got storytelling, we’ve got Easter egg decorating. Oh, we’ve got basketball (applause) -- a little soccer, as well. And we want everybody to think about moving their bodies, get out.’

See Fergie with the Easter Bunny and read the first couple’s remarks below.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
_________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release April 13, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND THE FIRST LADY
AT EASTER EGG ROLL

South Lawn

10:25 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody -- that’s Malia, our technical advisor. (Laughter.)

It is wonderful to see all of you today. Welcome. I hope everybody had a wonderful Easter. This is one of the greatest White House traditions because it reminds us that this is the people’s house. And to see so many children out here having a great time just fills Michelle and myself and the entire family with a whole lot of joy.

So I’m not really in charge here today. My sole job, in addition to thanking Fergie for that wonderful rendition of our National Anthem and thanking my buddy, the Easter Bunny, for being here, is to introduce my First Lady, your First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: All right -- okay, it’s working. Welcome everybody. I don’t have much to say. I want to welcome you all to the 2009 White House Easter Egg Hunt. Yay!

Our goal today is just to have fun. We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We’ve got yoga, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got storytelling, we’ve got Easter egg decorating. Oh, we’ve got basketball (applause) -- a little soccer, as well. And we want everybody to think about moving their bodies, get out -- we don’t have tennis; it’s on the tennis court -- the peanut gallery back here. (Laughter.)

So the goal today is to have fun, to get out and play. And let’s get things started with the Easter Egg Roll. Thank you all for coming today. Have fun. Thanks so much. (Applause.)

END 10:27 A.M. EDT

-- Johanna Neuman

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