A new president and first lady moving into the White House typically focus on hiring a new staff, finding their way around the White House and adjusting to new living quarters.
When Michelle Obama moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with her husband, President Barack Obama, in January 2009, agenda item No. 1 one was to dig up dirt. Not of old presidential administrations past or political enemies present, but of the White House front lawn.
“I thought wouldn’t it be amazing to plant a vegetable garden in the White House but I had no idea whether you could dig up some dirt in the South Lawn and actually plant anything,” the first lady said today in a live interview on “Good Morning America.” “The minute we came to the White House, we started having conversations with the National Park Service and all the folks who have been part of the garden and the answers throughout NPS were absolutely, ‘Yes.’”
Those answers became the White House garden initiative begun by Obama in 2009 that included planting a fruit and vegetable garden on the White House lawn, the first such garden planted at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden.
Click HERE for recipes from the White House garden.
“We started digging and brought some kids over,” she said. “We now have more than 1,100 square feet of vegetables growing and we’ve had hundreds of kids helping us harvest and plant and it’s just been more than I could ever imagine.”
The story of how the White House garden has grown, and how it’s being emulated across the country, is documented in a new book by the first lady, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, all proceeds of which will go to the National Park Foundation.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from “American Grown.”
“This book is a way to talk about our journey but also talk about the challenges we face as a nation around health and what we can do to move forward on these issues,” she said. “It really tells the story of not just our garden but what folks are doing in communities all across this country.
One of the folks Obama credits with helping to spread her initiative to get Americans, particularly children, to move more and eat a balanced diet is superstar singer Beyonce, whose Atlantic City concert the first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia were spotted taking in last weekend.
“I love her to death,” Obama said on “GMA” of the singer, whom the first lady told People magazine earlier this month that she’d choose to be if she could be someone else. “I was happy to be out there moving my body with her. Anybody who’s got talent, I’m all for.”
While Beyonce and other celebrities and athletes have stepped up to help the first lady promote “Let’s Move!, and the garden initiative, critics have slammed the efforts as another example of government intrusion by the Obama administration. The first lady says they are missing the point.
“That’s not really what “Let’s Move!” has ever been about,” she said on “GMA.” “This isn’t about government telling people what to do. What we know we need to do is give parents, communities, families the tools and the information that they need to make choices that are right for them and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.”
While the first lady is making appearances now to promote the book and her initiatives, she will soon be making more and more appearances to promote the other focus in her life: her husband in his re-election campaign.
“I’m going to be out there a lot,” Obama, 48, said. “I love campaigning. If every American had the opportunity to travel around the country and go into people’s living rooms and talk, we’d understand that we have so much more in common and we’re working towards the same goals.
“And, for me,” she said, “campaigning gives me the opportunity to experience that. So we’ll be out there.”