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May 14, 2012

US First Lady's 'Let's Move' Campaign Links to Olympics

by Parke Brewer

DALLAS - First lady Michelle Obama joined U.S. Olympians and other athletes committed to her nationwide “Let’s Move” campaign to help solve the problem of childhood obesity.

Related video report by Kane Farabaugh

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Obama, who will lead the U.S. presidential delegation to the London Olympics in late July, wants to see American children become more active.  She believes that the inspiration of the Summer Games will help achieve that goal.

She is teaming up with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which has the American governing bodies of 10 sports disciplines organizing beginner-level competitions for children who would not otherwise be involved in exercise programs.

Michelle Obama’s original target had been to help one million children get active in their communities.  Monday she announced a new target of 1.7 million children actively exercising by the end of this year.

Sometimes, the first lady says, all it takes is a first lesson, class or clinic to get a child excited about a new sport. “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," she said.

U.S. swimming star Nathalie Coughlin, an 11-time Olympic medalist, spoke to a packed news conference on behalf of the Olympians and said it was “extremely important” to her parents that she was active at an early age. “For me and my parents, it wasn’t about winning ribbons or trophies. It was just about getting out there and being active and being healthy, and I needed to do something outside of school to keep myself focused," she said.

U.S. gymnast Jonathan Horton, a silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics, hopes to qualify for the team going to London. He is a big supporter of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign. “I think it’s my duty as an athlete - somebody that young kids can look up to - to support this cause. I think childhood obesity is an epidemic in our society today, and I’d like to be able to do anything that I can to inspire young kids to get fit," he said.

Horton told VOA that even if he does not win a medal in London, he will keep encouraging kids to get out of their houses and get fit.