February 2nd, 2009
04:02 PM ET
14 years ago

First lady rallies education department staffers

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.obamasprayer0202.gi.jpg caption="The first lady spoke about her husband's plans for education policy during an event at the Education Department Monday."]
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.

Watch: 'We have a lot of work to do,' first lady says

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."

Filed under: Education • Michelle Obama
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Simmy


    That is so pathetic.........Bush's staff consisted of liars, perjurers, and those who were convicted of money laundering, etc.. You didn't hear about any tax problems because none of them were scrutinized as closely as those on the Obama team. And certain people in the media didn't expose their biases. Move along with that lame madness, we have a country to be concerned about.

    February 2, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. Jeff of Peoria

    Like 'em or not. You have to give the Pres and his wife credit for getting out and working the crowd. Except for on the WEST WING (TV SHOW), when did a President ever go to Capital Hill and then try to work w/ the opposite party as hard as he has. Not in the "W" years.

    My concern is that did he really know what was in the supposed STIMULUS package. I'm betting not much. I'm betting he was TRUSTING of the DEMS in "THE HOUSE" that they would do the right thing. I don't think he'll let that happen again.

    I hope!

    February 2, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. LJ

    Hey PATC.... Your so funny and so full of it

    February 2, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Mike in NYC

    As NCLB demonstrated, the Fed Gov should not be involved in schooling.

    Education is definitely one fed department that should be done away with.

    February 2, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Marci - West Covina CA

    I don't like her! I never did and never will...FAKE First Lady!

    February 2, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    And I just wonder which schools will receive the $$$$ and what good it will do them!

    February 2, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. kshaw

    I hope the republicans don't try to block these issues too. Since their new leader says bipartisanship is not a good thing. Our beautiful children cannot afford to wait for the great education they deserve, while Republicans pontificate for political gain with the far right of their party. America truly deserves better.

    Good luck to us.

    February 2, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. Sylvia

    to JR in PA
    I guess then it was OK with you to leave children behind uneducated in urban schools???
    I an an educator and love NCLB as I want NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND!!!

    the bad teachers and corrupt school boards we seem unable to fire...yes, they can be left behind

    February 2, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. S. Burns

    As a retired teacher who taught in the public schools for 40 years, I'm pleased to hear Mrs. Obama stress the importance of our public schools, and I don't think charter schools are the answer to our problems. Homes where education is valued would make a world of difference, and I know that Mrs. Obama was fortunate enough to live in such a home. I now live in Arizona where education is at the bottom of the legislature's list of priorities, and it's very sad to see. If the people of this state gave half as much support to our schools and educating our youth as they have to the Cardinal's football team, we wouldn't have this problem with school funding. Unfortunately they don't seem to realize that you get what you pay for!

    February 2, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. C W

    Several family members are teachers and all have said the No Child Left Behind, while well-intentioned, has been a disaster the way it was written and implemented.

    I trust the Obama Administration will truly listen to educators to help them succeed and in turn, help all of our children succeed.

    Both Barack and Michelle Obama know first-hand the importance of a good education – and they also understand the hard work required by teachers and students.

    I have very high hopes that things will get turned around for the better.

    February 2, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. C W

    PATC: No, you can't work for the Education Department not because you paid taxes, but because you can't write three simple sentences without punctuation and capitalization errors. Here's the corrected version (study it closely so the next time you post your bitter comments, at least they'll be in proper English):

    I am going to apply for a job with the Education Department. Wait, I paid taxes; therefore, I can't work for the Obama Administration. Oh, well, maybe next time.

    February 2, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  12. Meka




    February 2, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Billi

    I agree with JR, our children have been left behind for the last eight years. Tomorrows leaders are in school right now. We owe it to ourselves to educate them well.

    I'm all for people getting involved with the democratic process. Our voices should be heard. But taking swipes at the administration isn't going to fix the problem. That's just wasting more time when we all should be about the business of rebuilding our economy and protecting our natural resources.

    February 2, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  14. Mary

    PATC, we all pay taxes and yes the Bush Administration had tax problems as well. That is why they wanted the tax break so they would not have t pay taxes. The job you had when Bush was president will be gone soon or if it has not left already. Education is in a mess. Bush said it correctly "No child left behind", he left them all behind. I guess you have forgotten that since Bush was in office for eight years where anything he wanted to do was alright. He never apologize for nothing and is not going to apologize for running this country as he ran all of his business that dad tried to help me succeed in, IN the Ground!!!

    February 2, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. JOHN

    It is interesting that the government and foundations continue funding instutions that have failed our children, their parents, and taxpayers.

    It is past time that they fund an open curriculum, free to every citizen, downloadable via the Internet.

    The money they spend on testing without having a free curriculum to prepare students for the test is laughable.

    The Gates Foundation will not even consider a proposal from a group that has not already been given millions and failed.

    Our government is intent on seeing students, and our economy, fail.

    February 2, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  16. Kathleen B.

    The United States Educational system has been suffering for a long time. Schools are over-populated, teachers are under-paid, and the learing expectations are lowering. Education needs more funding and more attention. after all like Michelle Obama stated "We have to remember that the children of this country … are counting on us," Our country is ready for change and eager to make things better for the future of the kids. The FIrst family is putting in a team effort to help the country and show their concern toward a better America.They are sticking to thier promises so we should follow the example and do the same.(110)

    February 2, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. Chris E

    I am glad she is behind education, we need to make sure that all children get a good education.

    February 2, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. Allen in Hartwell GA

    After the last administration I imagine there is a lot of work to be done to fix the education system. Good luck, and get to work!!!

    February 2, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Francisco NYC

    Didn't take long for M. to start acting like she was voted into office did it?!?

    February 2, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. TjayeInLA

    Wow...I guess there will be bitter Republicans who just need to take issue with anything with the Obamas. PATC seems to have an issue with those who don't pay taxes, but seemingly supports tax cuts (which are designed to keep you people from paying taxes) and apparently supports that side that continually brings criminals into their cabinet.

    I suppose some people have different tolerance levels.

    February 2, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. PaulMoATX

    Thanks PATC for your lame and unnecessary commentary. Oh, and keep up the good work, you're doing an outstanding job of being highly critical of an administration that has done more in 11 days than ditto-head Bush did in a year.

    February 2, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. Melanie Stiglianese

    Perhaps this time the states won't cut more jobs and we can get back to teaching our children how to speak English correctly. Even the news journalists can't do that.

    February 2, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Griff

    So? CNN. All you need to do, is set up a Program for a Lady...
    And she Did it all... All What?? This kind of crap goes on after every Election... But Barack Obama is still your Biggest Mistake America...

    February 2, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. MW in Calif.

    PATC – that was really uncalled for. Look at Bush handing out positions to friends and campaign contributors who had no qualifications for those positions in the first place. How about the Dept. of the Interior being run like a sequel "Animal House Goes To Washington". This country needs a better education program so that our children dont just compete but lead with new idea's, technology and new businesses. Our schools are nothing like they used to be and are cutting more programs. We lose!

    February 2, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. Mercedes


    Comments like yours is what we must stop. It shows your ignorance and apparently you may not have children in the public school system or don't have children period. This country MUST put education on its top priority or we will loose universally. We can not afford to see our children go down because of a broken system. In order for my kids to do well I have to roll up my sleeves and sit with them and help them. I can't afford the $50 – $60 per session that tutors charge in my area. We must support Mrs. Obama and the hard road ahead.

    February 2, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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