Friday, April 23, 2010

Dear 4th Grade: My White House Visit

Hi Class,

I just wanted to say hello, since I've been away for awhile now. How are all of you?

I am in Denver, Colorado right now, and will be here for one more week before I head back to Lake Placid. I have had a very nice break from training and skiing out here, but wanted to fill you in on some events and programs I've been looking in to. I just spent the last two days in Washington, D.C. The US Olympic and Paralympic Teams were invited to the White House to meet President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice-President Biden and Mrs. Biden. This was an amazing experience. I got a chance to shake Obama's hand; star-struck, all I could say was "It is wonderful to meet you." What do you say to someone who has done such super-human and heroic things? Instead of shaking hands with Mrs. Obama, she gave us a warm hug, after the couple joked about biathlon and made funny gestures of a skier and then a shooter. After meeting all of us individually, each team got to take a photo with both the Obama's and the Biden's.

Not only was it cool to meet the President, and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, it was very special to meet Michelle Obama. I am very excited about her mission as First Lady and a leading mom. Among many initiatives, like growing a garden at the White House, she has started a new program called Let's Move! She is joining the national effort to create a healthier generation of kids - that is you that she is talking about! Here are some of the things her website has to say:

Let’s Move! has an ambitious but important goal: to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. Let’s Move will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country. Join First Lady Michelle Obama, community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, moms and dads in a nationwide campaign to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity. (

The two common themes here are FOOD and ACTIVITY, and the need for healthy amounts of both. In the video address on the homepage she sites national sport programs as playing a major role in motivating kids to get off the couch, away from the computer and outside to play. That's why the Obama's were psyched Olympic athletes were coming to town. Unfortunately, only a handful of athletes got to get into the schools while in DC. But here is what some had to say: "Athletes and First Lady visit D.C. schools"

Athletes also represent a healthy, active lifestyle, which is not only about being active, but also about making important decisions about what we put in our bodies and how we keep ourselves healthy. The food we eat plays a critical role in our performance. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products instead of processed and fast food makes us feel good, think well, and move fast. Listen to what Olympic Skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace has to say about Let's Move and her decisions as a mom and athlete to eat healthy and stay active.

My visit to the White House also coincided with Earth Day on April 22nd. We can't fully take care of ourselves without also taking care of the environment around us. These two ideas - keeping ourselves and our planet healthy - I think are inextricably linked now more than ever, and becoming a combined mainstream issue for our country. Another Olympic teammate, and north country skier, Bill Demong stayed in Washington to help promote Earth Day initiatives and action.

Look for an early post that displays Bill's call to action to sign a petition to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive climate bill. How our country governs our environment affects the food you eat in school and the places that you get to be active and enjoy the outdoors.

If you've got a moment in class, check out the following websites. See you again in few weeks!


*I forgot my camera for this visit, so once I gather some from friends, I will update this post.

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