First Lady Michelle Obama spoke with Tom and Sybil today about her “Let’s Move” campaign to end obesity and the important tradition of black history in her family.
“I just don’t want my kids to be shocked or stunned when they are confronted with racism or things that come up because of somebody else’s history. I want them to be prepared..” says the first lady.
Read full transcript of the interview below.
Tom Joyner: Hey, everybody! The First Lady on the phone!
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning! It’s the First Lady calling. How are you guys doing?
TOM JOYNER: Hey, Mrs. First Lady. How are you?
MRS. OBAMA: I am good. How is everything going there in the world? I can’t tell you — you’re just everywhere. So how is everything going everywhere?
TOM JOYNER: Everything is going good everywhere.
MRS. OBAMA: Good.
TOM JOYNER: And thank you for the invitation to the Black History reception. That’s going to be Wednesday, but it’s kind of short notice as First Lady.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, well, you know we had the Inauguration, and —
SYBIL WILKES: You all had other things to do.
MRS. OBAMA: Well, I mean, you all are creating black history. It’s one of these things where you don’t know if you’re going to win. (Laughter.) Kind of on hold — everything else that you normally do, you start thinking, okay, well, maybe they won’t want to do this. (Laughter.) So we’re going to get back on it and make sure that we have some really outstanding programs.
But we’ve got four more years to do some really good stuff. So in addition to creating black history, we are going to celebrate it and be creating more of it every single day.
TOM JOYNER: Let me talk to you about your girls and Black History Month, because we had an interesting conversation the other day on the show — yesterday on the show. Roland had a lady on from Montgomery, Alabama who was upset that her five-year-old was taught black history and slavery by having them be a slave on an auction lot. And so the question was, how old should your child be to talk to them about slavery?
MRS. OBAMA: First of all, everybody has different traditions and beliefs about when you talk to your kids about anything. We come from a household of lots of talking as early as possible, whenever they’re starting to ask questions and things come up. So we kind of follow what life has to offer.
So when things — so I would say we started talking to our kids very early about life in general, and our history. And for us, we can talk about these things in the context of our own family, especially now that there are books written about my ancestry, and there — Barack has written about his. I mean, that conversation is a regular part of our lives.
And we live with my mom, you know, who is their direct connection to history. So when they get curious and they want to know about what life was like for my mother’s father and what she remembers, we encourage those conversations to happen as much as possible. But not every family feels the same way, and it’s hard to kind of dictate what people do in their homes.
But I think our kids need to understand this history and they need to understand the consequences as it impacts their lives every day. I just don’t want my kids to be shocked or stunned when they are confronted with racism or things that come up because of somebody else’s history. I want them to be prepared, and the best way to prepare our children, I believe, is to talk them honestly and openly as often as we can, whenever we can.
SYBIL WILKES: Do you think, Mrs. Obama, because you all have made such history — and just on the other end of another historical thing with the African American winning reelection to the White House — do you think about your legacy and your place in history?
MRS. OBAMA: You know, it’s — more and more now that we’re in the second term. But I have to say that it’s hard to take — to get that time to reflect yet. I mean, just — honestly, because the days just fly by.
So I am trying to be more proactive about thinking about that legacy, and thinking about how do I document that, how do I share it, what’s the best way, how am I making sure I’m creating something that’s worthy of talking about in 50 years or 100 years. So right now, I know Barack and I are just making sure we’re getting stuff done that has an impact on the lives of our kids and our grandkids. And that’s — I mean, you watch the news, that’s an every-day battle, and it’s an all-consuming battle.
We relish it, and we’re trying to make the most of it to make sure that the folks who raised us and whose shoulders we stand on feel like we are worthy of this responsibility that we have been handed over. And we want to make the most of it.
TOM JOYNER: Do you think your young babies think about what their legacy might be one day?
MRS. OBAMA: My kids?
TOM JOYNER: Yes.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, heck no. (Laughter.)
TOM JOYNER: It’s not that deep?
MRS. OBAMA: No, I’m sorry. There’s no — they’re wonderful children —
SYBIL WILKES: They’re just trying to get through Algebra and —
MRS. OBAMA: Lord, it’s like, how do I get to TV? (Laughter.)
SYBIL WILKES: But you are making history in terms of — in your legacy, because now you’re celebrating the anniversary of your physical fitness program.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. We are kicking off the third-anniversary tour next week, Sybil, thank you for asking about that. But we are three years into our Let’s Move initiative, and while we still have a lot of work to do, we have more gains to make, we’re starting to see some improvement in the trend lines over these past few years, which gives us reason to hope; that these small incremental changes that we’re encouraging people to have a shift in the culture in terms of what we eat and how much we move is slowly but surely beginning to have an impact.
So we’re going to spend two days on the road. We’re going to be in Chicago, my hometown, and we’re going to be in Mississippi, we’re going to be in Missouri, and we’re going to be celebrating some of the successes that have happened. We’re going to be highlighting some new initiatives around physical fitness. And we’re constantly trying to figure out how to keep this momentum going, because it is a generational goal.
It’s too soon to measure whether we accomplished it because this is something where the kids born today, we need to be looking at them when they’re on their way to college, wondering has there been an improvement in how they think about their health and how they manage their health.
So we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
SYBIL WILKES: What do you think your biggest accomplishment is as far as the program?
MRS. OBAMA: There are many, but the improvement in the schools, nutrition standards is key. That was — we haven’t seen improvements in school nutrition and the lunches and breakfasts served in public schools in several decades.
So the fact that kids in schools all across the country are getting more vegetables and whole grains and fruits in their lunches, they’re learning to like wheat pasta over regular pasta — we’re really starting to push physical fitness, finding ways to get that back into the schools. Because I don’t know if you know, but fewer than 10 percent of the schools in this country have PE or recess. And that’s a far cry from where things were when we were all growing up, and everybody had recess, everybody had gym.
TOM JOYNER: Yes. That’s the only class I got an A in. (Laughter.) No, not gym, not gym — recess. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Recess. It was recess. Well, a lot happens in recess — you’re — had my first kiss at recess.
SYBIL WILKES: And so did Tom, yes. That’s where he makes his best moves — outside.
MRS. OBAMA: Recess is a highly important part of the day, but fewer than 10 percent of our schools have it. And we know that sometimes that is the hook that keeps kids motivated academically.
So we’re going to be doing some of that over the course of this week, and we’re going to keep —
TOM JOYNER: What was his name?
SYBIL WILKES: The first kiss.
MRS. OBAMA: Theodore Ford (ph).
SYBIL WILKES: All right, then. Teddy Ford, wherever you are —
MRS. OBAMA: Teddy. Young Teddy. (Laughter.)
TOM JOYNER: She called my name? Did you hear that? (Laughter.) Did you hear that? She called my name! (Laughter.)
SYBIL WILKES: We’ve heard the story before. We know about Michelle Robinson. Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Give Teddy a shout-out.
TOM JOYNER: Happy Black History Month.
SYBIL WILKES: Keep up the great work, Mrs. Obama.
MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. It’s always great to talk to you. And we’re going to be doing some partnering, too, coming up. So I’m looking forward to it.
TOM JOYNER: All right. Good.
SYBIL WILKES: Excellent.
MRS. OBAMA: All right, you all take care.
TOM JOYNER: Tell The Big Chief I said hello.
MRS. OBAMA: Okay. Absolutely.
TOM JOYNER: Bye-bye.
MRS. OBAMA: Bye-bye.