Political Notebook

Michelle Obama’s cause is obesity

Jimmy Wilson and Della Miles rehearsed yesterday for “Hope - the Obama Musical Story’’ in Germany. Jimmy Wilson and Della Miles rehearsed yesterday for “Hope - the Obama Musical Story’’ in Germany. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)
January 14, 2010

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WASHINGTON - Yesterday, in an afternoon interview that informally marked the beginning of her second year in the White House, Michelle Obama declared her intent in 2010 to lead the administration’s efforts to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. With a combination of advocacy and outreach to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government officials, she said she intends to lead the nation in making children healthier.

“I want to leave something behind,’’ she said. “I hope that will be in the area of childhood obesity.’’ She will begin her campaign by addressing the nation’s mayors on the subject next week when they gather in Washington.

During a conversation yesterday with reporters, Obama said that looking back at her first year at the White House, she was proudest and happiest that “my kids are sane.’’

“I’m happy that when I look at my daughters, I recognize them as the kids that they were before we got here.’’

Further, Obama said, there was nothing in the past year that she’d like a chance to do over. Not even for the state dinner honoring India that was marked by two uninvited guests - and possibly a third - and that has drawn mea culpas from the Secret Service, launched a grand jury investigation, and sparked criticism of the social secretary, Desiree Rogers, a longtime Chicago confidante of the first couple.

“The state dinner was an outstanding success. It’s just the follow-up after it. I look at the reporting on the state dinner and go: ‘Is that all that happened? Really,’’ she said.

Obama dismissed the suggestion that the security breach had left her especially unnerved. Of the Secret Service, she said: “These folks are good at what they do. But, with that said, the White House and the Secret Service are working to ensure that processes are in place so that something like that never happens again. And you know, I agree.’’

She also played down the recently published remarks by the Senate majority leader, Harry M. Reid of Nevada, in which he described then-candidate Barack Obama’s presidential chances as much improved because he was a “light-skinned’’ African-American who had “no Negro dialect.’’

“Harry Reid had no need to apologize to me. Because I know Harry Reid. I measure people more so on what they do, rather than the things that they say,’’ she said.

But issues concerning race, particularly as it relates to her historic role as the nation’s first African-American wife of a president, is not something she takes lightly. “You feel this palpability of the change throughout the house and throughout the country.’’

It’s all part of the ongoing conversation about race that didn’t end with the election of an African-American president, she said.

“The problems aren’t solved,’’ she said. “But we’re still new at this. Civil rights, the movement, happened in my lifetime. It feels like it’s been a long time but it hasn’t.

“My great-great-great-grandmother was actually a slave. We’re still very connected to slavery in a way that’s very powerful. . . . That’s not very far away. I could have known that woman.

“We need to keep having conversations until we get it right.’’ -- WASHINGTON POST

2008 campaign musical to premiere in Germany
BERLIN - A musical about President Obama’s “Yes we can’’ election campaign premieres in Germany this weekend, including love songs by the president to his wife, Michelle, and duets with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are given stage time, with actors portraying the Republican candidates and belting out songs on their behalf.

In all, 30 singers, actors, and dancers are to perform in the musical “Hope - the Obama Musical Story’’ when it opens in Frankfurt in a mix of English and German. The audience may recognize that many songs quote from the politicians’ stump speeches during the 2008 US presidential campaign. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS