First Lady brings 'Let's Move' to London Games
July 27, 2012
LONDON (Army News Service, July 27, 2012) -- First Lady Michelle Obama and a plethora of former and current U.S. Olympic stars helped musical performers entertain children today, during "Let's Move! London Tic-Toc."
The purpose of the fun-filled day of entertainment and celebrity gazing was to get children moving and involved in athletics, the thrust of Obama's "Let's Move" initiative to combat childhood obesity.
The children of U.S. service members joined hundreds of British youth to play sports games during the event in the backyard of the Winfield House, home of U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis Susman.
"I am thrilled to be here in London for the 2012 Olympic Games," Obama told the crowd after running past the University of Florida Fightin' Gator Marching Band to the stage behind the mansion in Regent's Park.
"I am proud to be leading the U.S. delegation to the Opening Ceremonies. That's happening tonight. That's pretty cool. And I am delighted to be here with so many outstanding young people from all across the UK and the USA -- good stuff."
The University of Florida Marching Band got the party started, followed by performances by English singer-songwriter Katy B. and English musician Mark Ronson, and British-Irish boyband The Wanted.
Five-time Olympic medalist U.S. basketball star Teresa Edwards introduced the likes of athletic greats David Beckham, Dikembe Mutombo, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Shawn Johnson, Carl Lewis, Apollo Ono, Dara Torres, Brandi Chastain, Dominique Dawes and Grant Hill, among others.
Former Olympic swimming star turned broadcaster Summer Sanders, one of many Florida Gators to grace the backyard of the Winfield House, introduced Obama.
"I have to say this is the best backyard party I have ever been to," Sanders said. "I would like to thank all my fellow athletes and Olympians that are up here for taking the time to come play with us and have fun and share their love of sports. I can't believe it's been 20 years since my Olympic Games in Barcelona and it feels a little bit like yesterday. When I'm around you guys, I feel like I'm 12 again."
Obama welcomed another group that she particularly endears.
"I would like to recognize a very special group of folks who are here, the military families who are joining us from U.S. bases that are stationed here in the UK," she said. "Let me just say, we are so grateful for your service because you all sacrifice so much -- U.S. kids, your moms, your dads, you sacrifice so much for this country and we are so incredibly proud of you. Anytime I get the chance to show you love, I do it, so let's give them a big round of applause."
As humbled as Obama seemed to share the stage with athletes who have won dozens of Olympic medals, she stressed to the crowd that "you're not born an Olympian."
"What they did do is that they stuck with it," she said. "Even when things got hard, they stuck with it. They spent hours every day doing their drills, perfecting their skills, practicing their moves. When they got tired or frustrated, and when they fell or fell short, they didn't give up. You hear that? They didn't give up."
Obama singled out the perseverance of Paralympian Gabe Diaz de Leon.
"Years ago, Gabe was serving in the Army when he was seriously wounded and became paralyzed," Obama said. "But Gabe had been an athlete in high school before, and he was determined to keep competing, so he set a goal for himself. He decided that he was going to make the Paralympic team in track and field. He didn't even have a coach, but he read a lot of books and he watched other athletes compete."
"He didn't just make the team. Listen to this: he won two medals, and many more in the years to come. That's my guy, Gabe, right. Today he is focused on inspiring and coaching other wounded warriors. So he's taken it to the next level. You hear that, young people? Take it to the next level always. So the story of these athletes reminds us that being an Olympian isn't just about winning a gold or setting a record, it's about pushing yourself, right? And believing in yourself, and refusing to give up."
Obama stressed the need to be athletic even if one does not desire becoming a world-class athlete.
"It's also about being active and taking care of your bodies," she said. "This is one of the reasons why we're here. You all have to start making sure that you get the exercise that you need and you eat the right foods. It is so important, but it's also about having some fun, right? This isn't that serious. It's about fun. Today has been all about fun, right?"
"In the end, that's what 'Let's Move' is all about. It's about helping kids like you live happier, healthier lives, and that's why we brought you all here today because we want you to see there are all kinds of ways that you can stay active and have fun doing it. You don't have to be an Olympian. You don't have to join a team. But there are so many ways that you can have fun and keep yourselves moving."
Susman welcomed everyone to his backyard and issued a challenge.
"Even for a guy like me, with the music and excitement, I can't wait to join the Games," Susman said. "It's a great thrill really, for me, to have so many young, active people here at Winfield House. I can't think of a better way to mark the opening of the 2012 Games than with this celebration of healthy and active lifestyles.
"The First Lady's 'Let's Move' initiative has been an important objective. She's trying to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity for a generation. Everyone will draw inspiration from the Olympics and the Paralympics (athletes) who teach us every day to aim high, to embrace the challenges, and to dedicate ourselves to our goals.
"Being active isn't just about feeling healthier and fitter," Susman continued. "Taking part in sports builds confidence and self-esteem. It instills values, discipline, patience and teamwork, and it enhances respect, responsibility and leadership. These are all the qualities you will see coming in the weeks on the track, the pool, on the courts, in the ring, and on the field."
"It is my personal hope that today has motivated you to exercise more, to eat better and get involved. I intend to do the same. And who knows, one day we will see some of you in the audience competing for Team USA or Team [Great Britain] in the Olympics."
Sanders offered another perspective to the children, and everyone else who would listen.
"Being active is not about winning the gold medal," she said. "It's about every single day, and making it a habit."