ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:
First Lady Michelle Obama told the employees of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that the Obama Administration is committed to making development a key part of a global effort to ensure “peace, security and progress in the world.”
Mrs. Obama intimated that this is a change from the approach of the Bush Administration.
“I know that the mission has been difficult over the last decade. The work that you do has not been easy. You’ve often been asked to do more and more with less,” she said. “USAID will play a central role in our mission going forward. “
Mrs. Obama said the “ultimate objective here is to create the condition that you are no longer needed.”
“That’s ultimately what you’re working to do…That’s why you have always represented what is truly best about America –- the idea that we have an obligation not just to help those in need, but to also help folks beyond our borders build capacity to help themselves.
The First Lady’s visit to USAID was the 17th stop on her tour of the federal government’s departments and agencies.
Mrs. Obama thanked the employees of for their courage and commitment to facing challenges and crises all over the world and said their work has touched millions of lives.
“You’re working weeks and months at a time away from your families. And that in and of itself is a hard thing to even imagine,” she said. “And you do it all because you believe in the power of development to make America stronger in the world and improve the lives of those less fortunate.”
Mrs. Obama said that she knows firsthand that the international development and aid community is a “tight-knit” one because her mother-in-law, President Obama’s mother, spent more than 20 years working on development projects for USAID in Indonesia.
“I got to see her commitment firsthand. I know that many of you, like her, have lived and worked in conditions that the rest of us could only imagine –- sometimes risking your own lives and your own safety along the way,” she said. “Many people don’t realize that.”
The First Lady spoke about her recent trip to Haiti, where she met with the USAID country director, Dr. Carlene Dei, and credited the agency for its response and commitment to helping the people there after the devastating earthquake.
“Perhaps nowhere has your work been more visible to the American people over the last year than in Haiti,” Mrs. Obama said. “In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people and left millions without food, water and shelter, the men and women of USAID, you all answered the call, and you put service above self, and helped to mount a rapid response to one of the most complex disasters that we’ve seen.”