February 8, 2011
First Lady Taking Health Work Global
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
During a wide-ranging luncheon interview with reporters, Mrs. Obama said she intended to spend part of the coming year shaping a more international message, with a possible focus on issues of maternal and child health. She expects to talk about fighting obesity when she travels with President Obama overseas, she said.
“What I find internationally, and Barack says the same thing, is whenever he meets with a world leader, one of the first things they ask him about is the garden, because the issue of obesity is becoming an international issue,” Mrs. Obama said, adding that “many first ladies have begun to think about how they’re going to deal with this issue.”
The interview kicked off a two-day media blitz by Mrs. Obama for the first anniversary of her healthy eating and exercise campaign, “Let’s Move!” She will appear Wednesday on “The Today Show” and “Live with Regis and Kelly,” deliver a speech in Atlanta and introduce a public service announcement that, she said, has the potential to reach more than 200 million viewers.
She took questions for slightly more than an hour, addressing topics like Mr. Obama’s cigarette habit (he quit about a year ago; “I’m very proud of him,” she said), how she keeps her marriage strong (“We don’t take ourselves too seriously”) and what she thinks about Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, who has accused her of trying to tell Americans not to eat dessert.
“I don’t think about her in this initiative,” Mrs. Obama said.
The first lady said she intended to campaign vigorously for her husband’s re-election – as “Michelle, American citizen,” she said, “I want that man in office.” But she has not yet hired any campaign staff for herself or begun discussions on what her role will be. And she drew a firm line against answering certain questions. While Mr. Obama has said his views on same-sex marriage were “evolving,” Mrs. Obama would not share her own thoughts.
“I think I’m going to let him express his views,” she said.
Nor would she discuss, in any detail, the family’s spiritual life. Though the Obamas have not joined a church since moving to Washington more than two years ago, the White House has said the president prays daily and often consults with ministers by phone. Mrs. Obama dismissed as too personal questions about whether she has a spiritual adviser or whether her daughters, Malia and Sasha, attend Sunday school.
“The short answer is yes, we participate in church, we have a spiritual life,” she said. “It is important to us.”
But she made it clear she would go no further. “Some things are just mine,” she said.
The question-and-answer session, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, took place over a meal that included a salad of winter greens (hand-picked from the White House garden by Sam Kass, the Obamas’ chef and chief nutrition adviser), a choice of pan-roasted rockfish or seared rack of lamb and a key lime tart for dessert, all in appropriately small portions. The guests were given a tiny jar of honey from the White House beehives to take home.
But the first question had to do with a far less healthy meal: the one the White House served at its Super Bowl party on Sunday, where guests including Jennifer Lopez feasted on kielbasa, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and other fat-laden items. Mrs. Obama, an avid fan of French fries, took the position that all foods are fine – in moderation.
“It’s always about balance,” she said, adding: “I don’t even know what you’d have other than some hot dogs and some burgers for a Super Bowl party. That’s what the Super Bowl is.”