Michelle Obama Empowers Hispanic Community at Nation Council of La Raza Conference

Speaking to over 1,800 attendees at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama exclaimed, “Food is love… it’s how we pass on our culture and heritage as meals become family traditions and recipes are passed on from generation to generation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Council of La Raza annual conference. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the National Council of La Raza annual conference. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

But, said Obama, pointing to health issues like the rise of diabetes, “while food might be love, the truth is that we are loving ourselves and our kids to death.”

Significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents are a reality. Currently, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic children in this country are overweight or obese. Hispanic kids ages nine to 13 are only half as likely to participate in organized physical activity outside school. And, unhealthy products are being disproportionately targeted towards our nation’s Latino communities.

As the largest national Hispanic and civil rights advocacy organization in the United States, NCLR recognizes that Latino families face higher rates of hunger, food insecurity, and obesity and has taken a leadership role in trying to address these issues. NCLR’s Comer Bien (Eat Well) Initiative encourages the work of the First Lady’s Let’s Move!Initiative, and provides access to nutritious food through federal food assistance programs, resources, and nutrition education to Latino parents and their families. Additionally, NCLR has been a tremendous advocate and partner on key initiatives like MiPlato (MyPlate) and La Mesa Completa (USDA’s SNAP program).

While the First Lady offered much “felicitaciones” for these efforts, her message was clear – we can do more, especially when it comes to what foods we buy and serve our kids.

“Today, the Latino community’s buying power is more than one trillion dollars – you hear me? Trillion with a “t” – and it’s expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2015. So make no mistake about it, with the choices that you make, you all could completely transform the marketplace…you all have the power right now, today. So when companies step up and provide healthy choices…we all need to step up and actually take advantage of those choices.”

Highlighting the influence of the growing Latino community, she offered these final words of advice to attendees: “In the end, we create the demand for these [healthier] products…and it’s up to us to demand quality, affordable food that is good for our kids. But it’s on us.”

Read the First Lady’s full remarks here.

First Lady Michelle Obama Announces a New Program to Help Transitioning Servicemembers Get IT Jobs

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, April 29, 2013. The First Lady announces the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing. The First Lady announces the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In the ongoing effort to help our servicemembers and veterans transition from active duty service to the civilian job market, the White House today invited leaders from the private sector, the military services, industry trade associations, unions, educational institutions, state legislatures, veteran service organizations, and state licensing boards for a forum on military credentialing and licensing.

At the event, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private program that addresses an issue that can prevent our troops from gaining employment in the private sector: Active military personnel typically do not have the industry-recognized certifications that reflect the IT skills and expertise they gained through their military service.

Today’s announcement is the second major partnership developed through the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which was established last June by the Department of Defense at President Obama’s direction. The new Partnership will provide opportunities for up to 161,000 service members to gain industry-recognized, nationally portable certifications necessary for 12 high-demand technology professions, including computer programmers, quality assurance engineers, and IT security analysts. The targeted professions are expected to generate more than 1.8 million job opportunities by 2020, and have an average annual salary of more than $81,000. Their high-quality military training assures that our veterans have the skill sets that employers demand to fill these positions

In her remarks, Mrs. Obama praised the leaders who created the Partnership, saying  their efforts will “make the world of difference to hundreds of thousands of veterans and military families across this country.”

The First Lady also explained that hiring exiting servicemen and women isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart business decision:

[Our veterans] do everything. They are medics and engineers, they’re drivers, welders… And they are eminently qualified to do the very jobs that employers across this country are desperate to fill.

But too often, because of red tape, or outdated rules, or simple lack of coordination, our men and women in uniform come home only to find that the training and experience they’ve gotten during their time in uniform simply doesn’t count.  Or they discover that the credits that they’ve earned in military courses don’t actually transfer when they enroll in college, so they’re turned away from jobs that they’re more than qualified to do. Or they wind up paying to do the same coursework over again, and all that training, all that education, all that expertise that they have devoted their lives to attain, it all goes to waste.

And this is unfair to the men and women who have served this country so bravely. They deserve a fair shot at a good job when they come home. But it’s also unfair to their families who have sacrificed probably more in some instances so that these men and women can do their job. And they deserve some financial security once they return to civilian life.

It is also unfair to this country, because when we don’t take advantage of the skills and talents of our veterans and military spouses, jobs go unfilled and, far worse, human potential goes untapped. And that’s bad for our economy, as we all know.

Today’s event also featured four roundtables where plans were discussed to launch additional public-private initiatives that will streamline the ability of service members and veterans to earn the civilian certifications and licenses required for high-demand jobs in emergency medical services, healthcare, and transportation sectors as well as streamline the ability for service members and veterans to translate military experience into academic credit.


Learn more about the Obama Administration’s efforts to help our exiting servicemen and women transition to the civilian workforce through Joining Forces.

Read the Joining Forces Fact Sheet about the IT Certification and Training Partnership

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts a “42” Movie Workshop for Students

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during the "42" film workshop in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 2, 2013. Workshop participants included, from left, Brian Helgeland, Chad Boseman, Harrison Ford, Rachel Robinson, and moderator Paulette Aniskoff. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during the “42” film workshop in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 2, 2013. Workshop participants included, from left, Brian Helgeland, Chad Boseman, Harrison Ford, Rachel Robinson, and moderator Paulette Aniskoff. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 80 high school and college students from across the country on Tuesday for a screening of “42,” followed by an interactive workshop with the cast and crew of the movie. “42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the very first African American to play major league baseball. The panel was moderated by Paulette Aniskoff, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and featured Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman and Brian Helgeland.

The discussion focused on the inspirational themes from Robinson’s life that students — who came from Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, DC; Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, MD; TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA and Amino Jackie Robinson Charter High School in Los Angeles, CA — can apply to their own.

Also joining the conversation was Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow and his partner throughout his incredible life’s journey. And as Mrs. Obama explained to the young crowd, Mrs. Robinson’s example can be their guide. “Jackie and Rachel Robinson weren’t destined for greatness — they prepared themselves for greatness, which meant that they could make a difference outside of baseball, as well. And that is the only thing that is important for you to understand. You can be great in your profession, you can earn a lot of money, you can be famous, but the question is what are you doing for others.”

In fact, the First Lady told the students that they are a lot of lessons they can take away from this film (which, she noted, both she and President Obama found “very powerful” when they watched it over the weekend):

“This isn’t just about watching a wonderful movie about an important moment in history, this is about helping all of you believe that you can write your own history.

“And I can’t say this enough to enough young people — you might not be able to hit a ball like Jackie Robinson, but you can get your education.  In fact, you must get your education and demand more of yourself every single day.  You have to do that, and you have to pick up yourself when somebody knocks you down — because you will get knocked down. But to do all of that, you have to put the work in…

“All of this is about hard work. And you have to be willing to face any obstacle you might encounter along the way.  That’s what Jackie and Rachel Robinson did, and the same could be said for all the folks on this stage, quite frankly.

“Before he became an actor, Harrison Ford had to overcome a crippling fear of speaking in front of an audience. So he’s terrified right now. And it took Chadwick 10 years of hard work before landing his first starring role. So this stuff doesn’t come easy. And then Brian sits down to create a script, and that means hundreds of hours of writing and rewriting, painful doubting and rewriting — oh, you can see the pain — before he comes up with a finished product. And that’s really the secret.

“And I want all young people to understand — what does it take?  What does it take? What’s the secret? The secret is that no one comes out a finished product. None of us are finished products. There is no magic that makes someone an actor or a director or a doctor or a lawyer or a President or First Lady. There is no magic. That is the one thing I want you all to understand. If you gain nothing from this movie or any of our lives, there is no magic. It takes grit. It takes determination and a whole lot of hard work. And as you know in the movie, it takes guts.

“So as you think about the obstacles you face in your own life, as you hear someone telling you that you’re not good enough, or that you don’t belong, I want you to think about how Jackie Robinson got up and played after he got spiked in the leg. I want you think about that. I want you to think about how Rachel Robinson is still working to make this world a better place at 90 years old. She’s still not stopping….

“And then I want you all to put your heart and soul into everything you do — every single thing you do” Michelle Obama said.

First Lady Michelle Obama Challenges America’s CEOs to be Bold in Finding Ways to Hire Veterans

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the Joining Forces Initiative to business leaders at the Business Roundtable Conference Center in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the Joining Forces Initiative to business leaders at the Business Roundtable Conference Center in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

First Lady Michelle Obama  met with the Business Roundtable yesterday, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies which combined have nearly 16 million employees, and challenged these leaders to make bold commitments to hire our veterans and military spouses and help them reach their full potential within their companies.

Mrs. Obama highlighted the need for action, referring to the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses currently looking for work, and pointing out that in the coming years, over one million more will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning back to civilian life. “These men and women will be returning to their families, rejoining their communities, and figuring out what’s next in their lives,” said the First Lady. “And as they do all of that, the one thing that they’re going to be thinking about is a job.”

In her work with Joining Forces, Mrs Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have spent countless hours with active duty servicemen and women, veterans and their families, and she spoke to the incredible skills and training they have received, and the experience and wisdom they can bring to any company:

These men and women, our veterans and military spouses, have seen it all.  And in the process, they have gained the types of qualities and values that you simply can’t teach anywhere else –- a relentless commitment to excellence, the ability to juggle multiple priorities, the wherewithal to meet deadlines under every circumstance imaginable.

They know how to develop and execute comple strategic plans, and they don’t give up until their mission is complete.  And when the pressure is highest, that’s when our veterans and military spouses are at their best.

HIring these heroes, she said, is good for your company and good for our country.

You can watch her remarks here.

First Lady Michelle Obama Challenges Governors of all 50 States to Ease Service Members Transition to Civilian Work Force

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden listen to Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks during a Joining Forces military spouse employment event at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Feb. 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden listen to Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks during a Joining Forces military spouse employment event at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Feb. 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden highlighted the work that has been done across the country to change laws that require military spouses to attain new credentials when they move to a new state, and challenged the governors of all 50 states to take legislative or executive action to help our troops get the credentials they need by the end of 2015. Speaking to the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Mrs. Obama talked about the pressing need to take action and fulfill our responsibilities to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much over the past decade:

“In the coming years, more than one million service members will make the transition to civilian life.

“Think about that – a million people hanging up their uniforms… figuring out what’s next… and doing everything they can to make that change as seamless as possible for their families” Michelle Obama said.

So the fact is, while this time of war may be ending, our responsibilities to our troops and their families will only be ramping up.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about today—how we can fulfill what is perhaps our most pressing responsibility to our troops: making sure that when they come home, they can find a job—and not just any job, but a good job, a job they can raise a family on.

Last year, the Department of Defense established the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force at the direction of President Obama. The group has identified and created opportunities for service members to earn civilian occupational credentials and licenses, focusing their efforts on well-paying industries and occupations that have a high demand for skilled workers, including: manufacturing; information technology; transportation and logistics; health care; and emergency medical services.

Moving forward, the Task Force will be expanding its efforts to assist states in translating military training and experience into credit towards professional licensure. The objectives of this initiative will be to accelerate states’ occupational licensing processes and to streamline approaches for assessing the equivalency of military training and experience.

Ensuring that our service members leave the military with the ability to transfer their education and training to the civilian job market and can use their skills in whatever state they choose to call home isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do for our economy, as the First Lady pointed out:

“If we do this, we won’t just be upholding our values and honoring our troops… we’ll be lowering the unemployment rate.

“We’ll be improving our health care system.

“We’ll be boosting economic growth in this country.

“And we’ll be strengthening our country not just for now, but for the years ahead.

“And in the end, that’s really what Joining Forces is all about.

“It’s not just about supporting our heroes while they’re on the battlefield.

“It’s about standing with them …and their families when they come home. It’s a forever commitment” The first lady said.


Learn more about Joining Forces, the initiative created to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.

Big Bird Visits the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama invited Big Bird to to the White House to learn how easy and delicious it is to eat fruits and vegetables. Check out the latest PSAs from Mrs. Obama and Sesame Workshop celebrating Let’s Move!‘s third anniversary!

The duo also spent some time in the East Room, where Big Bird learned how much fun it can be to get moving.

Read more about how Let’s Move! has inspired three years of healthy changes for America’s kids.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Toys for Tots Spread Holiday Cheer

First Lady Michelle Obama is escorted by SSgt Joel Vazquez as she arrives with a sack full of toys at the Toys for Tots Distribution Center at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
First Lady Michelle Obama is escorted by SSgt Joel Vazquez as she arrives with a sack full of toys at the Toys for Tots Distribution Center at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

First Lady Michelle Obama today stopped by a Toys for Tots service project at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling — a naval installation along the Potomac River in Washington DC — with “boxes and boxes” of gifts that were donated by White House staffers, American CEOs, and even First Daughters Malia and Sasha.

As she thanked the volunteers and donors working to make this holiday season special for those who are less fortunate, Mrs. Obama noted that it was especially meaningful to attend the event on a military base, since Toys for Tots was started by a military family — a Marine reservist and his wife who decided that they wanted to make the holiday just a little bit better for kids in need.

“Since then, so many Americans — including so many military families like all of you — have spent countless hours bringing gifts and holiday cheer and everything else that is wonderful about the holidays to children all across this country.

“And this is just one of many examples of how our military families are always going that extra mile to serve our communities and our countries — I talk about this endlessly.  You know I’m working on Joining Forces, but the military families are what inspires my work. Because even though all of you are dealing with your own hardships and challenges and struggles, you’re moving from base to base every couple of years; even though you’ve endured deployment after deployment, the miraculous thing about you all and your spirit is somehow you always are the first people to volunteer for something.  It could be as simple as the car pool, or the PTA, or a food pantry, or you’re stepping up for a neighbor or friend; family members of your own. But somehow you’re always the ones who find the extra hours in the day to give back, above and beyond what life has thrown your way anyway” Michelle Obama said.