As some of you know, I had the honor of being at the White House this week. It was the culmination of a long project I began with some colleagues, one that ended up becoming the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner. The event was on Monday, and I had the tremendous honor of speaking first, followed by 12-year-old Marshall Reid, who then introduced the First Lady in poignant and heartfelt fashion. Mrs. Obama’s speech was inspiring, moving, funny, and off-the-cuff. She is a true leader and one of the vital issues she has spearheaded is eradicating childhood obesity within a generation. This was the genesis of Let’s Move. She has already made remarkable inroads, along with White House Assistant Chef, Sam Kass.
We will post all three of our speeches on our sister site, Epicurious, but meantime, here is the text of my speech, given Monday August 20, 2012, in the East Room of the White House:
Mrs. Obama, I speak for all of us in this historic room today when I say thank you so very much for inviting us, for welcoming us to your home, and for your tremendous vision and leadership on the issue of childhood health.
We are gathered here together to celebrate the winners of The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. I was so impressed by the quality and quantity of entries we got for the contest: They were sophisticated, creative, and downright tasty and it seems as if quinoa and salmon are two of America’s kids’ favorite ingredients. But while today is a joyful and celebratory moment for us all, it is essential to remember that we are here for a very important reason—to make real and lasting changes in the health of families today and tomorrow. The 54 winning junior chefs and their family members know how important that is. In the 1,200 submissions to the contest, many children described in detail their personal experiences with family members who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These young leaders understand that by eating healthfully and exercising, we can all strive to be the best we can be, for ourselves and for our country.
I want to tell you winners how inspiring you are not just to the adults in the room but to your family and friends, your community, and kids throughout America. I know that you’ve all become local celebrities as a result of winning this contest, that some of you have appeared in People Magazine, Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, Nightline, and Newsweek, and received congratulatory calls from your senators. And although it is thrilling to be a star, remember the old saying: To whom much is given, much will be required.
The contest you won was called the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge for a reason. Now we are challenging you to go out and lead the fight to teach your friends and family the importance of healthy eating and exercise. You can also mention to your friends that, according to a recent New Yorker article, there is a new activity called “going outside.” You don’t need a keyboard or a mouse, it’s 3-D, and it comes with surround sound—no headphones required!
And now, before we taste a few of the delicious creations you dreamed up, I want to leave you with this thought. As some of you recently saw, Mrs. Obama led our U.S. delegation to the Olympics. She carried America’s torch just as she carries the torch for good health and well-being. She and I are passing the torch to you, to bring the message to your own communities.
I am confident you will carry this light of inspiration and information because you are born leaders. How else can you explain finding yourselves here, sitting in the same room where America’s greatest visionaries changed the future of our nation–extraordinary people such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And who knows, perhaps one of you here today may even stand in this very same spot a few decades from now as President of the United States, inspiring the next generation of young people to be their best for themselves, for their families, and for their country. And now I want to introduce one of those torch bearers, author of Portion Size Me, 12-year-old Marshall Reid. Thank you very much.