President Obama kicked off the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House today with push-ups and a “wild rumpus,” as he welcomed roughly 30,000 visitors to a sun-filled day of activities on the South Lawn.
“I want to wish everybody a wonderful Easter,” the president said as he stood alongside the Easter Bunny, his wife, two daughters and first grandmother Marian Robinson on the South Portico. “We are so thrilled that all of you could join us here today.”
The president kept his remarks short, joking that his purpose this morning was “to introduce the powerhouse of the White House, the one truly in charge, as Malia, Sasha and Bo all know: the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.”
“Thank you, honey,” the first lady said as she stepped up to the microphone, wearing purple pants, an orange shirt and a bright yellow sweater. “We are so excited to have you all here. We’ve got a great set of activities planned for you. There’s something for everyone. We’re going to be over there doing a little egg roll.
“I think the president is going to try to beat a 3-year-old, which I hope he does not,” she said to laughter from the crowd gathered below.
Today’s festivities, a tradition that dates back to 1878 when Rutherford B. Hayes was president, included story-telling, cooking demonstrations, basketball, tennis, an obstacle course and even yoga. All of the activities were intended to promote health and wellness, in line with the first lady’s Obama’s national obesity campaign. “In the theme of this year’s Easter egg roll, let’s go, let’s play, let’s move,” the first lady said.
First stop, the traditional Easter egg roll. The president refereed two rounds, cheering on the children and helping them push their eggs down the South Lawn. “We’ve got a winner over here,” the president shouted as one kid rolled to the finish line.
The president shook hands with the children, dressed in their finest, and offered up high-fives. “We have to get a picture with all the competitors,” he said as he corralled the little ones around him. “Everybody say ‘cheese.’”
Next, the president joined his family in reading stories to a group of children. Malia and Sasha, who are rarely heard from in public, took turns reading “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” as their father watched intently beside them.
The president then offered a colorful reading of “Where the Wild Things Are,” which he described as “one of the all-time classics.”
Obama encouraged the children to participate and join him in a “wild rumpus,” growling and gnashing their teeth along with the characters in the story. The president also let out a few loud roars.
“You guys were excellent wild things,” he said before exiting the stage.
“I’ve got to go to work. I’m gnashing my teeth,” he joked.
Then it was off to the court, where the president joined Mitch Richmond, Darryl Dawkins and several members of the Harlem Globetrotters in a round of “Shoot for Strength.”
For every shot the president or the pros made, the kids had to do push-ups. While the president missed his first shot, when the pros made theirs, he got down on the ground and showed off his push-ups along with the kids.
“Somebody saw me cheating on my push-ups,” the president said jokingly to the press. After declaring he was “all pushed-up-out,” Obama move on to the tennis court.
The president played doubles with a young girl against tennis pro Chris Evert and a little boy. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said as he high-fived his teammate after she made a good shot.
Obama played for a few minutes and made sure to shake hands with the large tennis ball character on the sidelines before heading back to take another shot on the basketball court. The determined president, an avid basketball player and fan, finally nailed it on his eighth attempt.