2:42 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much, everyone. Wow. I've never been introduced as an athlete, so that’s pretty cool. But it's a little intimidating with you guys up here. But I want to thank you, Natalie.
I am thrilled to be here with all of you today. I want to, again, start by thanking Natalie for that very kind introduction. I also want to recognize Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Partnership for a Healthier America, and, of course, all of the phenomenal athletes who have taken the time to be with us here today. Thanks to all of you for your hard work, your advocacy, and your leadership in connection with this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I am beyond proud to be leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies in London this summer. And I want you to know that I'll be doing this both as a First Lady who is honored to represent my country, and I'll be doing it as a lifelong Olympic fan.
See, one of my happiest memories center around watching the Olympic Games on TV when I was a little girl -- cheering on Mary Lou and Nadia and Carl Lewis, and so many others. And like so many young people, I was awed and inspired by those athletes, and as I watched their amazing feats of speed and endurance and grace I would dream about how maybe one day, if I worked hard enough, I too could achieve something great.
So when I'm sitting in that stadium in London cheering on Team U.S.A., I'll be thinking about all those young people cheering them on at home. I’ll be thinking about the power of the Games to truly inspire a generation, and I'll be thinking about how our Olympic and Paralympic athletes can serve as role models for our young people; as examples of the values we want our kids to learn.
This summer, our children will learn the stories of athletes like Jessica Long, a Paralympic swimmer. As a child, Jessica watched other kids walking up and down a hill in her neighborhood park and she spent an entire day practicing on her prosthetic legs, falling down over and over again until she could climb that hill too. Her advice to others about how to succeed is very simple. She says: "You have to practice. You will have days when you hate it, and days when you love it. But you have to stick with it."
And then there's John Orozco, a gymnast from the Bronx who I just got to meet today. Starting when he was just nine years old, John's mother would drive him an hour or more each way to the gym, six or seven days a week, and he would often practice until 9 at night and then stay up past midnight to finish his homework. He soon began working at the gym between practices to make money, and when he received his first paycheck, I understand he turned it over to his parents and he told them, he said, "Here Dad. Put this in for the mortgage."
This summer, so many athletes like Jessica and John will show our young people that the Olympic and Paralympic Games aren't just about who wins the gold or who sets a new record. They're about trying to your hardest and triumphing over adversity, and helping others do the same. And thanks to the commitments from the U.S. Olympic Committee and 10 of its governing bodies, this year, young people will be learning those values for themselves in schools and parks and athletic facilities all across this country.
Now, when we first met with these organizations, we challenged them to commit to helping 1 million kids get active in their communities. So that was our first target -- one million kids. And of course, we thought that was pretty ambitious. But let me tell you, they not only met that goal, they added another 700,000 more to that commitment. So this year, 1.7 million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities.
Many of these kids will be playing sports for the very first time, or some of these sports for the very first time. And that is so important, because sometimes, as all of you know, all it takes is that first lesson or that first clinic or that first class to get a child excited about a new sport. All it takes is one opportunity, and once they're engaged, that’s when coaches and instructors can step in and become mentors. That’s when discipline and teamwork can become daily lessons. That’s when being active can become a lifelong habit.
So today, I want to thank all of the organizations who have made such important commitments to our young people. And I hope that they will keep expanding on their programming all across this country. It is so important to so many of our kids who could be the next Olympians, the next ones standing on this stage.
So I want to also thank our Olympians and our Paralympians for being such tremendous role models. You can tell when you first meet these folks with one meeting that there's a special something there. And I hope that they will keep working with our young people, and keep inspiring them to reach their fullest potential.
And most of all, I want to thank all the parents and all the caregivers out there who are encouraging our children to be active every day. Because we all know that in the end, we as parents are our children's first and best role models. No matter what they see on TV, in the end, it is up to us to make sure that they grow up healthy.
And this summer, my hope is that together with our children, we can support Team U.S.A. not just by cheering them on, but by striving to live up to the example they set. In the end, some of these athletes, again, will bring home the gold. But let me tell you something -- all of them will make our country proud. They're already doing it. And all of them will inspire a generation of young people to get active, to strive for excellence, and to pursue whatever dreams they may hold in their hearts.
And I wish all of our athletes the very best of luck this summer. I cannot wait to get there to London to cheer them on.
Thank you all. Thank you for this commitment. God bless.
2:50 P.M. CDT