***UPDATED: SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS, REPORT FROM THE EVENT, TRANSCRIPT OF MICHELLE OBAMA'S REMARKS***
The former lawyer and administrator said she loves her job because she thinks public service is very important. She urged the older students to get involved in serving their communities. She urged the younger students to understand that the institutions in the nation's capital such as Congress work for them.
Students from the Latin American school and its sister school, Next Step Charter School, performed songs and dances for the first lady as part of an early Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
The White House Pool report:
Cuatro de Mayo at a local charter school
In pre-observance of the Cinco de Mayo holiday, first lady Michelle Obama on Monday visited the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School
(LAMB) at 14th and Missouri, NW.
Info about the school -- which starts kids at three years old, here: http://www.lambpcs.org/aboutus.html
The cheerful function room was decorated with colorful crepe paper garlands, a couple of pinatas, flowers and a welcome banner. Parents, faculty and older kids sat on folding chairs, little kids on the floor.
Many of the littlest kids were in traditional, Latin American costumes:
colorful, swishy skirts, embroidered blouses, braided hair with flowers, woven tunics, serapes, sombreros, straw hats -- and one, tiny mariachi.
The first lady was somewhat tardy, arriving at 12:10 for an 11:45 event. She wore a lavender argyle cardigan over a white tee, with a full, charcoal skirt.
Intros, all in both English and Spanish, then the children performed some traditional dance -- older kids, then the little kids. They all sang a song, "We are the children of LAMB," which includes the line, "Peace begins with me." Throughout, the first lady watched, smiled and clapped.
Check transcript for FLOTUS remarks, but she greeted the kids with "Que fantastico!" and told them that visiting schools is one of her favorite things to do. She talked about how she places a high premium on getting to know the DC community.
She encouraged them to get involved in public service, and talked up the White House intern program for DC public school students, urging them to do well in school so they could apply for a spot.
A possible snafu: One of the older kid asked during the Q&A whether LAMB students are eligible for the program, since theirs is a charter school.
Mrs. Obama didn't know, referred the matter to staff.
She also made a reference to the H1N1 virus in Mexico, telling the students to send "thoughts and prayers" to the afflicted.
She took some questions -- About her mother, what it was like stepping into the White House for the first time, what surprised her most about being first lady, whether she likes Mexican food (affirmative) and how the White House is different from their house in Chicago.
On her way out, the first lady stopped to hug some of the kids, a couple of whom handed her flowers. At one point, she was in the midst of a hugging pileup, with a bunch of the smaller kids wrapped around her.
Don't hesitate to contact me with questions, Nia.
Michelle Obama's remarks:
MRS. OBAMA: Que fantastico! (Applause.) Thank you, Laurie, for that wonderful introduction. You guys are terrific -- all the singing and the dancing. It was just amazing. You all look so pretty and bright, and your school is just beautiful. You should be so proud to go here because it is a really beautiful school and you're so very lucky.
I also want to say Feliz Cuatro de Mayo -- (laughter) -- right? Why, why? Because what's tomorrow, really? What's tomorrow? Tomorrow is really actually Cinco de Mayo. But I'm -- but I'm going to --
MRS. OBAMA: What, what? Yes, I'm right about that. So today is actually what?
MRS. OBAMA: Cuatro de Mayo. So Happy Cuatro de Mayo. (Laughter.)
I am really honored to be here. This is one of the favorite -- one of my favorite things that I get to do is go around and visit schools and to talk to all of you. So I am so happy to be here. Even though it's rainy and soggy outside, I was looking so forward to today, and meeting all of you, and seeing your school, and hearing you sing and dance. It's just a wonderful treat.
And at a time that we're celebrating Mexican culture and heritage, it's so important for us to think about some of the challenges that the folks in Mexico are facing right now. And we want to make sure that we're sending our thoughts and our prayers out to people as they're getting well, and the rest of the people around the country as they're getting well, from folks who have gotten the flu and all that kind of stuff, right? So we want to send good thoughts to everyone, okay?
But since I've moved to Washington -- because I didn't live here before, before my husband came -- became the President, me and our girls, our family, we lived where?
MRS. OBAMA: In Chicago. She has the book, so she's -- (laughter) -- you've got the answers there. It's this book -- I didn't even know what was going on. (Laughter.)
So now that we've moved to Washington, our new community, we've really been trying to get to know the community and get to know our neighbors. That's one of the reasons why at least once a week I get out of the White House and come and see you guys so I get to learn about your schools, learn about your neighborhoods, your communities, because I think it's important for all of us to get to know our communities, and not just to get to know it but to participate, because Washington, D.C., the place where you live, is just an amazing place. Don't you think?
I mean, you guys are living where there's the Capitol, and the White House, and the Washington Monument, and the Supreme Court -- because we're in the process of selecting a new Supreme Court member. So there's so much excitement here. And what happens here is that the whole world looks to Washington, D.C., to really understand what America means. And you guys live here.
So I want to make sure that the children of D.C. feel as much a part of the business part of D.C.; that you guys get to know the capital and you feel comfortable knowing where the White House is, and that you come to visit us, because it's important for you to understand what Washington is all about, not just what's going on in your schools and your communities, but what goes on in the capital, and that you feel like that space is your space, and that that's -- it's your democracy, as much as it is anyone else's.
And I want you all to keep in mind, as you think about this stuff, especially our Next Step folks, our AmeriCorps young people, is that I always want all of you to start thinking about public service.
And public service can mean a whole lot of things. It just means that you take the time to help your community, because we're at a point in time when we're going to need a lot of help from you all, especially our Next Steppers, right? Moving on, we are going to need you all to take on the next challenges of leadership. And we want you, as you move forward, to think about developing careers in public service, whether it's working in government, or working in communities, or working with youth groups, or whether it's, you know, raising money. Whatever it is, think about a way that you can develop a career or have some time spent in your life to give back, because all of you guys are future leaders. Every single one of you, the three-year-olds on up to the 20-year-olds, we're all counting on you to make good choices.
So as First Lady I really want to make sure that people feel connected. And one way that we're doing that with kids in D.C. -- and this is more for the older kids -- is that we're developing this summer at the White House a program called D.C. Scholars, where we're inviting teens from Washington, D.C. -- and it's exclusive to the teens who live in the area -- to come and be interns at the White House.
For the first time -- and this hasn't been done -- students from the D.C. public school system will have the opportunity to be interns at the White House. We've already selected our first class. But for those of you who are interested in coming to work in my office maybe, or working in the President's office, or -- you know, there's a whole range of opportunities. It's important for you to look out on the web site at the White House for how to get involved in next year's summer program.
But in order to be a part of this program, you have to have your stuff together, right? You all know that, right? You're passing that down to these young people. And by having your stuff together, it means that you have to do what? What are some of the things that you need to be doing now in order to get really good internships? What do you guys think you need to be doing?
MRS. OBAMA: Working hard, yes. What else? Just shout out.
MRS. OBAMA: Studying, reading.
MRS. OBAMA: What?
MRS. OBAMA: Listening. To who?
MRS. OBAMA: Your teachers. Who else should you be --
MRS. OBAMA: Your parents. You guys know this, right? Let's see if some of the big kids know this. (Laughter.) What do you all have to be doing to have your stuff together?
Q Studying hard!
MRS. OBAMA: Studying, right? And learning. All right, we got it, we got it. I think -- have you -- do you all hear? Do you all have it from the little people?
So one of the things that I try to encourage all students to do now, because -- listen, listen -- it is so important, the choices you make now as students. And we're not looking for young people to always be at the top of their class. A lot of times we look for the kids who are trying really hard, right, who are showing through the little things -- whether they come to class on time, whether they're pushing and challenging themselves, not whether they are always getting everything right.
I tell my kids, I want you to be comfortable with failing, because if you learn how to fail, then you're not afraid to do what? To try, right? So we're asking young people at this point in time in our country's history, we want you to try. And if you're trying now, and you're staying out of trouble, and you're working with your teachers, and you're doing community service, and you're giving back, and you're getting decent grades, and you're listening to your parents, then opportunities like interning at the White House, working in the First Lady's Office, maybe standing here one day, are open to you.
And the White House internship program for D.C. public school kids is one way that we just want to create a little bit of an incentive for all of you all to just keep it up and keep pushing, right, whether you're three or 23. You can do this.
So I really want to thank you all from -- on behalf of myself and the President and Malia and Sasha and Bo. (Laughter.) We are so happy to be here with you all today. We are so proud of you. We want you to know that you can do anything you want as long as you try, right?
So I'm going to stop now because I am -- I get to let you guys -- you guys get to ask me a couple of questions. But I have to say, make them very easy questions, because it's very nerve-wracking being up here, and there are cameras back there and everything. Please ask me something I can answer.
All right, do we -- we have a mic. All right, Diane, why don't you -- feel free, you go around and find -- do a good mix of kids. And we have time for three or four.
All right, so your teachers are going to come around. And speak up and tell me your name and how old you are, too, before you ask your question.
All stand, stand up for me. Stand up. Stand up tall. Stand up tall.
Q What is your grandma's name?
MRS. OBAMA: First, tell me your name.
Q Sierra (ph).
MRS. OBAMA: What?
Q Sierra (ph).
MRS. OBAMA: How old are you?
Q What is your grandma's name? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: What's my grandma's name, or what's Malia and -- what's my mom's name, or what's Malia and Sasha's name? Her name is Marian Robinson, but we call her Grandma. (Laughter.) Thank you for that question. See? I knew that. I knew that one.
All right, stand up. Tell me your name.
Q Olivia (ph).
MRS. OBAMA: How old are you, Olivia (ph)?
MRS. OBAMA: Ooh, big time.
Q What was it like your first time stepping into the White House?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow. Well, the first time I stepped into the White House, it was to visit the Bush family, because they hadn't moved out yet, and after my husband won and he was the President-elect, we went to go visit. And it was actually a very exciting experience for me, because I had never set foot in the residence of the White House, so it was very exciting.
But the thing is that the Bush family, they were so kind to us, they were so nice. The Bush daughters were so nice to Malia and Sasha, and they showed them where their rooms might be, and they told them all the secrets of how life at the White House can be fun. So it was really exciting for me, probably like you might feel if you walked into the house where you were going to live, right, for the first time. That's how I felt. I was pretty excited.
All right, let's get another question going.
Q Yes, how are you doing, Ms. Michelle Obama?
MRS. OBAMA: It's good to --
Q My name is George (ph), I'm an AmeriCorps member.
MRS. OBAMA: It's good to see you. (Applause.)
Q And with the D.C. Scholars, is that only for people in D.C.? Because we actually -- I live in Maryland.
MRS. OBAMA: You know, that's a good question. Where's my team? Is it just for -- I think it's just for D.C. public school kids. It's for D.C. public school kids.
Q It's only for D.C.?
MRS. OBAMA: But we -- you know, there goes Jocelyn, who's my policy director. If you think you want to make a case for expanding it, go see her. (Laughter.)
All right, we're getting another big person question.
Q My name is Plazy (ph). I'm 20 years old. I want to ask a -- did you never had tried Mexican food? What type of --
MRS. OBAMA: Have I ever tried Mexican food?
Q Yes, what type --
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, let me tell you, Mexican food is my favorite food in the whole wide world. I think I'm on record. (Laughter.) Ooh, what do I love? I love -- oh, I love tortillas, I love tamales -- (laughter) -- I love beans and rice, I love mole, I love all the mole sauces, I love beef and lamb and quesadillas. I mean, you name it. The question is, what don't I like? (Laughter.) I like it all.
All right, we want to do two more questions. We can do two more. We'll do two more.
Okay, here we go. We have a young lady with the mic.
MS. COTTEN: What's your name?
Q Maya (ph).
MRS. OBAMA: Maya (ph).
Q I'm seven years old. What were there differences between living in the White House and your house in Chicago?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, yes, what are the differences? Big differences. First of all, you know, there's a lot of protection at the White House. There are a lot of people who are around making sure that the President is safe -- the Secret Service, yes. Some of them are here right now, yes. (Laughter.)
But, you know, part of it is that the White House is not really just our house, and we don't view it that way. Like, our house in Chicago, it was really just our house, right? And we feel like the White House belongs to everybody. So there are always people in and out of our house. We have tours going on, we host receptions for people, we want to make sure that kids are coming in and out. So we don't really feel like it's just our house for us; that it's a house for everybody. But our house in Chicago is really just for us.
So I think that's one big difference. It's a house that we share. We live in it for now, but we're borrowing it, and we have to take really good care of it. But it really belongs to everyone in this country, which is why I want to make sure, if you guys haven't come and taken a visit -- and had a visit, you should come by and see what it looks like, right? Make sure your teachers take you on a trip, or your parents take you over the summer, so that you see what it's like living there, okay?
All right, we'll take one more question. One more question. You want to pick them? Oh, we've got -- okay, there you go.
Q My name is Stephanie (ph), I'm 24 years old. And my question is more of a request. I wanted to know if I can get your autograph on these two magazines that I've purchased. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: You know, what I'm going to ask you guys to do is just have -- who do we have here who can collect the things that we need to sign? Well, I'll sign them, I'll make sure we collect them in the back. So make sure you have something with your name on it so that we can get it back to you. I'd be happy to.
Q Thank you.
MRS. OBAMA: All right, that wasn't a question. We'll do one more question, and then we'll stop.
Okay, here we go. Tell me your name.
Q Amelia (ph). I'm eight years old.
MRS. OBAMA: Amelia (ph). Thank you for the flower, by the way.
Q You're welcome. I'm eight years old, and I wanted to know what has surprised you mostly about the White House.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, see, this is a question; serious. What has surprised me most? I think -- you know, I didn't -- I didn't know that I would have this much fun doing what I'm doing. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how hard it would be, I didn't know how much work it would be. I didn't know completely what to expect.
But what I found is that this is a really good job. I've always felt like public service is a really good thing to do. I used to be a lawyer. I went to law school -- you knew that because it's in the book, isn't it? (Laughter.) That's good. But I practiced law, and I enjoyed practicing, but I decided early in my career that I wanted to make my career be something that helped others.
And being the First Lady is like the icing on the cake of helping other people. In this role, I have a big platform. I can come by your school, and people will follow, and they get to see what's going on here, and they get to see your faces, and we get to remind them why education is important, and why investing in you guys is so good, and the whole world will see you dancing and singing just because I came by to say hi.
Or I can plant a garden, something as small as planting a garden, and the whole world will pay attention, and then we can talk about the importance of not just gardening but of eating good food, right, of making sure you guys eat fruits and vegetables and that they taste good.
I can get my kids a dog and we can talk about the importance of young people taking responsibility for their pets, because if you ask for a pet, you got to take care of it, right?
So there's a lot I can do to help the public, and it's been fun and surprisingly fun for me. So I think that'd be the most important thing.
So, you guys, thank you so much. You've been great and patient. (Applause.)