NICOLE GLASS / THE EAGLE
First Ladies Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron hosted a mini-Olympic games at AU March 13 to promote Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, was accompanying her husband on an official trip to Washington when she joined the First Lady for the celebratory student Olympics.
About 60 elementary school children played each other in tennis, basketball and soccer.
Obama showed off her own athletic skills as she walked into Bender Arena halfway through the games, picked up a tennis racket and played against a team of grinning students on the other side of the court.
“You guys know Let’s Move is about me ensuring that young people like you guys get up and get moving,” she said in a speech addressing the children. “And we want to use these Games as a way to jumpstart.”
After the student games came to an end, Obama announced that she will lead the presidential delegation to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.
“I’m particularly excited that the Camerons are visiting our country this week because, as it turns out, I will be visiting their country this summer,” Obama said.
But she also said the Olympic games are not about winning – they are about commitment, determination and teamwork.
“The Games are about finding our inner strength,” Obama said. “It’s about digging down deep and finding the thing that makes you want to do more.”
She referenced Dominique Dawes, a now-retired gymnast and three-time Olympian who spent as much time in a gym as people spend at a full-time job. Obama also praised Kortney Clemons, a former combat medic who lost his leg in Iraq at age 24, who competed as a sprinter in the Paralympics.
“He didn’t let that stop him from reaching his goals, see?” she said. “And that’s the beauty of it.”
Other Olympians and Paralympians who helped lead the event included Lisa Leslie, Lori Ann Lindsey, Dan O’Brien, Becky Sauerbrunn and David Wagner.
Obama asked the children to join them in an initiative to promote Let’s Move.
“You guys are going to get some medals, but I need you to be our ambassadors,” she said. “I need you to send the word out to people in your lives and in your community about how important it is to stay active and healthy.”
Anita McBride, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush and an AU executive in residence, said Obama has an important role in making a difference for Americans. This event is one of many examples of Obama’s ability to use her status to have the voices of her cause be heard, she said.
“It demonstrates for us the power of a first lady’s platform,” McBride said. “This is clearly something Mrs. Obama has cared about and has cared about since she has come into the role of First Lady.”
First Ladies are required to write their own job descriptions and build these around initiatives they care about.
“They really are best at it when they engage in something they really care about deeply,” she said. “Because they bring a lot of credibility and authenticity to it.”
To thank AU for allowing Obama to host the event, the First Lady presented a gift to the university’s arboretum: a seed from a famous magnolia tree on the south grounds of the White House, planted by Andrew Jackson in 1835.
“She’s bringing a seedling of one of the most important and iconic trees of the White House grounds,” McBride said.