WASHINGTON (CNN) - In one of her first public speaking events as first lady, Michelle Obama told employees at the federal Department of Education on Monday to "roll up (their) sleeves" and prepare for "hard work" as the new administration seeks to expand education funding in the face of the economic downturn.
Obama also indicated that her meet-and-greet session with the department's staffers will be the first in a series of appearances with employees throughout the federal government.
"Barack and I want to say thank you for what you've done," the first lady said. "You have to build a team from the bottom up."
Greeting by thunderous applause after an introduction from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama declared that the country has "a stake in educating every single child" regardless of background or income. She pledged that the administration will push to upgrade more than 10,000 schools as part of a broad-ranging effort to boost educational opportunities for 5 million youngsters.
Among other things, she said, the administration will push to expand college Pell Grants and prevent teacher layoffs by using the economic stimulus package to boost federal aid to education.
Obama stated that she "wouldn't be here if it weren't for the public schools who nurtured me and pushed me along."
During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama promised, among other things, to double charter school funding, boost support for math and science education, and promote merit pay for teachers.
"We have to remember that the children of this country ... are counting on us," Michelle Obama concluded. "Let's get to work."