MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX HOST: Mrs. Obama, thank you very much for joining me here today. Your initiative, the Let’s Move Initiative. Focused on children. I want to ask you, is your passion for Let’s Move primarily a policy passion, or is it a parental passion because you’re a mom?
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, that’s a good question. I come to this issue more so as a mom than a first lady. And I shared my story before, because this is really how I became aware of the issue. Just in my own kids.
You know, life has changed for families in a way that I can see. You know, we’re busier. We’re less active. Our kids watch more TV. Sometimes it’s hard to get outside. Drive-thru fast food is easier and cheaper.
And as a result, we’re seeing the effects on our kids, and I saw it on mine. And it was because my pediatrician that just sort of waved a red flag…
HUCKABEE: What did he say?
OBAMA: He said, you know -- he monitored our kids’ body mass index. He didn’t just do it for our kids, but he did this throughout his practice because he was seeing obesity rates increase. It was in an urban, African-American setting, and he saw those trends. So, he did it for all of his patients.
And he just said, "You know, the trajectory isn’t what it should be. So you may want to think about doing something." And I didn’t know what to do. So, we just started making some really small changes in our diet.
More water, less fruit juices. More vegetables. I cooked a little bit more, even though we still had to go out because we were busy. Made sure my kids weren’t sitting in front of the TV. No TV during the week…
HUCKABEE: No TV for your kids during the week?
OBAMA: During the week. Just on the weekends…
OBAMA: … and now, they have homework, so you know, they’re really busy.
So, with those minor changes, I saw the impact on my kids almost immediately. So, when I got to this position, I thought, you know, families don’t even know how modern-day life has really changed the way our kids move and eat. And if I didn’t know, what about communities where people aren’t even talking about this issue?
So, I thought that this platform would give me an opportunity to shine a light to -- to give more information to parents, to talk about health of food in schools, to talk about access and affordability issues. So, it is really personal for me.
HUCKABEE: There are a lot of issues you could have chosen as first lady to pick as an initiative. And some might wonder, why is this issue so important? It could be birth defects or autism or alcohol and drug issues. Why childhood obesity?
OBAMA: Because we can really fix this. You know, this is a solvable issue because it’s -- you know, community based. You know, it doesn’t -- I said this in my launch speech -- that it doesn’t require new technology, or you know, new research. We have the solutions in our hand, but it takes a coordinated effort. It’s going to take all of us.
Government, business, our coaches, our teachers, parents all working together. So, my hope is that I can be one components in helping to pull that cohort together.
HUCKABEE: Now, there haven’t been many critics. But there are some, as there are with everything…
HUCKABEE: … and some say, "Oh, this is going to lead to a mani (ph) state. The government telling us what we can eat." Are those fears fair, or are they unfounded?
OBAMA: Well, this is the one thing that this initiative isn’t. Because I’ve spoken to a lot of experts about this issue, and the one thing that they haven’t said is that government telling people what to do is the answer. This is not government intervention. I mean, as you know, as governor, you know, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.
What’s going to work for every family and community and school is different. That’s why we need our governors and our mayors very engaged in figuring out what works in their hometowns, in their states.
We’re just here as part of the -- we’re one player in a big play. But, I think that people should be concerned. But this is not an initiative that is about telling people what to do. It’s giving people the tools to make the decisions that make sense for them.
HUCKABEE: When you talk about the "we have to do something," who is the "we"? Who all does that involve?
OBAMA: "We" is all of us. It’s parents, it’s coaches, it’s Congress, it’s the industry providers. People who make soft drinks. People who make food for school lunches. But it’s community groups, it’s businesses who make decisions about where they’re going to locate grocery stores, it’s our media -- you know, it’s Disney, it’s Nick. Nick TV. It’s everyone that has an impact on the health and life of our children. Our teachers -- so it’s all of us.
HUCKABEE: Now, we’re really talking a cultural transformation, not just sort of a program change.
OBAMA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, this -- the pillars of Let’s Move, you know, attempt to hit on an array of approaches. Information to families so they can make better decisions, you know. Sometimes when you walk into a store, it’s hard to look at a label and know, "Well, is this good for my kid? Does this make sense?" We have to make that easier.
Families need to work with their pediatricians and their family doctors so that they’re all talking about the same issue, they're looking out for the same signs.
But when they see a sign, it's not just telling a parent, you need to make some changes, but it's giving them a prescription, step-by-step guide to what they can do. You know, it's what our kids see in the media. You know, so what is Nick saying on those commercials and what are the Disney characters talking about and how do we, you know, increase the public awareness that families are getting and kids are getting.
But it's also what's going on in our schools, cause most of our kids get the majority of their calories that they eat in school. So we have an opportunity to work with the federal government and the school lunch providers to figure out how do we make those meals healthier. You know, how do we take out fat, sugar and salt and put in more fruit vegetables and whole grains.
HUCKABEE: And still make the kids where they want to eat it, of course.
OBAMA: Exactly, exactly.
HUCKABEE: Mrs. Obama, we're going to take a brief break here. When we come back, we're going to talk more about how to get access to those foods that are good for all of us, not just the kids.
We'll be right back with First Lady Michelle Obama, right after this.
HUCKABEE: We are back with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama, I want to talk about one of the elements of Let's Move. It's empowering the consumer to be able to get access to food that is healthier.
OBAMA: Absolutely, right.
HUCKABEE: Now, in some inner cities, there has been problems for people in big areas getting access because neighborhood groceries don't allow some large supermarkets and Wal-Marts to come in and yet, that would open up consumer choices and lower prices.
HUCKABEE: Is that something you hope will be addressed? And isn't a free-market solution here maybe a good idea?
OBAMA: Yes, well, the third pillar in the initiative is accessibility and affordability. Because the truth is, is that if we just look at families and tell them, feed your kids differently, get more fruits and vegetables and they have no place to get them because their communities are in food deserts, then it's just -- we're just creating more frustration for families that are already overwhelmed and frustrated. So we have to deal with the affordability and accessibility issue, and that's one of the reasons that I've come to Philadelphia cause they've actually worked to tackle that problem.
There are 23.5 million Americans who live in food deserts, and this isn't just in urban communities...
HUCKABEE: When you say "food desert," define that for me.
OBAMA: This is areas where there are absolute -- there's no access to a grocery store. So there are places, like in the communities that we visited in Philadelphia, they hadn't had a grocery store in their community in a decade.
OBAMA: All right, you think about a decade of a community. So that means that if a mom in that area wanted to make a salad for their kid -- right? -- even if she was geared up to do it, that means she would have to get in a cab, take a bus, get on a train to get to a grocery store to do that. And you're just sort of -- think of families that are busy, they don't have resources, they just don't do it.
So we have to eliminate food deserts, and one of the goals of Let's Move is to eliminate food deserts in this country in seven years. And the reason -- ambitious goal, but I think we can do it if we work together, and Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is a model. They essentially have started a food -- healthy food-financing initiative where they take a modest investment and they leverage that to create an incentive for local businesses to locate an underserved community. And we visited this beautiful store where they did just that. This community that hadn't had a store in 10 years now has a fresh grocer there. Beautiful store, it's employing local community members, and it's created an economic engine in an underserved area. So it's a hub for other businesses to come in.
So the point is, if we can do that in Philly and we can do that in Pennsylvania, cause they're implementing this all throughout the state, then perhaps this is a model that we can look at for the rest of the country. So Let's Move, a piece of that is creating a healthy food-financing initiative, investing $400 million to try and leverage some additional resources for states and communities that want to replicate that. So it's giving governors and mayors some support to figure out how do we attract more grocery stores here, how do we change the mindset, because it's really not about what our kids eat, it's also about what their communities are like. You know, you can't live in a community that doesn't have food in it, right? I mean, that's basic -- the basic foundation.
HUCKABEE: And good and wholesome food.
OBAMA: Good and wholesome food. So that's one of the really important pillars. And again, because we already have models out there where states are doing some really amazing things, this platform can shine a light on some of those, those success stories and give communities and local residents and elected officials some idea of what they might do.
HUCKABEE: You can imagine that when everyone found out that you were going to do an interview on the FOX News Channel that there were a lot of people who said, "oh, really?" Including a lot of our anchors at FOX.
And you are going to be surprised -- every one of them had many questions they wanted me to ask you.
Do you know what the number one question --
OBAMA: What was that?
HUCKABEE: -- that they wanted me to pose to you?
HUCKABEE: You're not going to believe this.
OBAMA: What I was wearing?
HUCKABEE: They want to know, how do you have such wonderfully toned arms.
OBAMA: No, you're kidding.
HUCKABEE: No. It was not -- that's what they want to know.
OBAMA: Well, fitness is the fourth pillar, you know? Because --
HUCKABEE: So you're not going to tell them?
OBAMA: No, no. I can't -- it's going to be part of the answer.
But no, we've always made exercise a part of our routines, the president and I. And, you know, now we're really encouraging our girls.
You know, as a young girl growing up, exercise was play, right? It was just natural. You know, you didn't have a lot of TV to watch. There were like seven channels, kid TV was on Saturday, no computer games. So you play all day, right? You couldn't come in until it was time to play.
Things have changed. And kids aren't walking to school, cause sometimes they don't live in the area. There's a lot of -- you know, our kids are spending seven-and-a-half hours per day is what I heard in front of some kind of electronic device. Some communities don't have access to safe places to play. Some communities don't have the sidewalks and playgrounds that they need to even encourage that kind of activity. So, as a result, we have to sort of be more deliberate about ensuring that our kids get exercise.
Same thing we're seeing in schools. Gym and recess is oftentimes the first to go because we've, you know, come to believe that that kind of stuff isn't a necessity. But we know that kids need to get 60 minutes of exercise every day. I do it for myself, my husband does it, I make sure our kids do it. So we need to talk about that a little bit more.
So if you want to know how I got my arms, it's because, you know, I'm in the gym.
HUCKABEE: I'm going to pass that on, because that was what they all wanted to know.
HUCKABEE: And I think you've made the good point, too, that it's a combination of nutrition and exercise.
HUCKABEE: It's like the wings of an airplane.
HUCKABEE: You can't pick one as being more important than the other.
Both need to be there.
HUCKABEE: We're going to continue in just a moment. We'll be right back with the
first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, right after this.
HUCKABEE: We are back with the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama, thank you again for joining us.
OBAMA: Thank you for having me.
HUCKABEE: The obvious question I have to ask you, do you ever watch Fox News?
OBAMA: I you know, what I I don't watch news that much.
HUCKABEE: But you will watch it this weekend, right?
OBAMA: I will. I will. I will absolutely watch it. You've got it.
HUCKABEE: All right.
OBAMA: But I try to stay away from, you know, news because, you know, I want to formulate my opinions based on experiences that I have. So, you know, I'll read clips. You know, I get headlines. But I tend and I try to keep home kind of a news-free zone. You know it's sort of like, when you work above the shop, you can't just bring work home.
OBAMA: So when the president walks in the door, I don't want to then start bombarding him with, you know what I heard, what happened here and what do you think about this.
OBAMA: You know I let him, you know, have a little dinner. You know, play a little, you know, play Sorry or some kind of game with the kids and sort of bring it down.
HUCKABEE: There have been so many vile and hateful things said about your husband, said about you, not unlike what the Bush family went through. I think it's part of
HUCKABEE: The horrors of our political climate today and the blogs where people can anonymously, and in my word, cowardly say things that they would never say if they had to tell us who they were.
HUCKABEE: How do you deal with that and how do you deal with it specifically not just for you and the president, but for your daughters?
OBAMA: Uh-huh. You know, it's a good question. And as you know, that's part of politics today, you know. And the truth is, is that most of America isn't like that. And they're tried of that. You know, they want folks to get stuff done. The beauty of my job is that I get to see more of that America. And that feeds me. You know, that sort of reminds me, like campaigning. I mean you know what it's you know, the beauty of campaigning is that you're talking to America.
OBAMA: And it's a really cool country with some really great people all over the place. You know, I mean, it still brings tears to my eyes because we don't often get to do that as Americans. We don't get to campaign and have to go to Iowa and then to Montana and then over to you know, but you're forced in a very good way to do that. And when you do that, you see the true America. And it's decent, and it's kind and it's hopeful and it's critical, right, and it's demanding, but it's courageous. It's not cowardly in that way.
And that's the truth that, you know, I hold on to. And that's the truth that I teach my children, you know. It's part of dad's job, you know.
He's doing a big thing. There will be people who won't agree with him, you know, that's life, you know? People won't agree with you, you know.
So just, you know, know that, you know, I teach my kids to keep moving forward, know what's in their heart and, you know, stay true. And it's that faith, you know, that really keeps you going.
HUCKABEE: You've been in the White House now for a year.
HUCKABEE: A little different kind of living environment than most.
OBAMA: A little different.
HUCKABEE: What's been the greatest pleasure or the greatest moment you've had in this first year?
OBAMA: There have been so many. In the White House, you know, one of the things that I love to do is to bring kids in who usually don't get to, you know, sit in those chairs or walk in those rooms. I have a group of young girls who are mentees (ph) from all over the D.C., Virginia and Maryland area and they come in once a month and I always love, you know, watching them come in. They're a little nervous, but, you know, they're starting to relax.
There were a group of kids who came through from the U.K. who had won an essay contest. You know, it's that those kind of interactions where you let them sit in the old (ph) family dinning room and sit on those chairs and feel like this is part of my experience. And it's really a privilege to be able to offer a lot of kids that experience. That's one of the most fun parts in the White House.
Now this year, it's travel, you know, and seeing my kids see the world.
You know, watching them meet the Pope. Where Sasha's big thing she noticed about the Pope was that he had a nick in his thumb. And she wrote an essay about it. So you should see the horror when I looked on there and said, is that what you saw. But that she was about thumb level to him.
But just watching that and watching their interaction when they met the queen and when we traveled to Ghana, to the cape coast and saw, you know, the old slave ports. Those kind of experiences are a privilege and we're seeing the world and the country in a way that few people will.
And that, you know, those are the things that I hold, you know, so closely and I'm grateful that my children not only get the experience, but they are appreciative in the experience and they're not arrogant about the experience and they're grateful. And it's continuing to make sure that they're grounded and grateful and understand that to whom much is given, much is expected. So hopefully they'll be working hard to, you know, give back just a fraction of what they've been given.
HUCKABEE: We'll be right back with First Lady Michelle Obama right after this.
HUCKABEE: We are back with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama, I want to ask you, what do you wish people knew about you that they don't know?
OBAMA: Wow. You know, I you know, I still feel like Michelle, you know.
You know, I think that I am I try to be who I really am, you know. When I share stories and I talk personally, I mean it's really because, you know, I still connect with people at the core. So, you know, I guess I want them to know is, what they see is what they get, you know.
But I think it's important for people to know that I'm really proud to be in this position because, you know, I grew up on the south side of Chicago, you know. My parents – my father worked the shift. There is no way that I could have imagined that I’d be in this position to be able to serve my country in this way. And that I’m doing everything I can everyday to make my country proud, so that when I go abroad and represent us, I want America to know that I’m thinking about doing it the best way that I can. And that my intentions are to help, truly. And if helping means being quiet or sitting down or standing up or, you know, working a little harder, I’ll do it.
HUCKABEE: Well, I think you’re helping a lot with the Let’s Move, and getting a face and a voice to the issue that is so very, very critical to America. And I think sometimes that people don’t understand that it’s an economic issue, but it’s a national security issue. Your kids aren’t growing up even able to enlist in the military because they don’t meet the physical requirements…
OBAMA: Which is the number one reason why young people can’t enlist.
Because of obesity now. It used to be because of malnourishment, which is why the school lunch program was started years ago. But now it’s obesity.
HUCKABEE: I heard five percent of people tried to join the military a generation ago because of inability to meet the physical requirements.
That’s now 27 percent of those who attempt to enlist.
HUCKABEE: Let me ask you this. Is there a perception or a narrative about you that you feel has been misrepresented or maybe been unfair?
OBAMA: You know, to the extent that I think it was during the course of the campaign, I think that people have gotten to know me. You know, I mean, there will always be people who don’t agree with you. You know…
HUCKABEE: I have great experience in that…
OBAMA: Yes, I know! It’s just odd. So, there’s always that piece of it.
But I feel like the country has gotten to know me. And I’m – you know – I love my country. You can’t do this if you don’t. The same is true for my husband. You do this because you want to create the kind of country you want to pass on to your kids and grandkids. So, all this – you know, whatever sacrifice that comes with this being in elected office – and I know that you’ve experienced, too, because there is sacrifice when you’re running a state and the sacrifice you make to run for the presidency – is huge for every single person who thinks to do it. And you don’t step into that arena unless you care about the country, right?
So, we can disagree on direction, but the fundamental truth is that if you’re here sitting in this, subjecting yourself to all of this and the scrutiny and the – you care. And that’s something that I’ve come to know and respect in all of our politicians and all of our candidates, regardless of their beliefs or their perspectives, is that they’re in this because they care.
HUCKABEE: You and the president have modeled, I think, a magnificent picture of marriage. And I mean this sincerely. I’ve been so very grateful that you have shown the rest of America that your family still matters. That you may have the most important job in the world, as your husband does, but he takes time to be with you and to spend time with you as his wife. And he still dotes on those beautiful children of yours.
HUCKABEE: Thank you…
HUCKABEE: … for making that an important part of the American message.
And I mean that sincerely. How do you protect, though, that time with each other and the relationship that so many people tugging at you – people like me, wanting interviews?
OBAMA: You know, you always prioritize family first. And thinks sort out around it, right? And people respect it. You know, the truth is that people respect family. We all have it, we all struggle with it. So we usually put our kids activities and their schoolwork and their parent-teacher conference on the calendar first, and everything works around it. We've always done that, though. And we've brought those -- those -- those habits and traditions to the White House, which has made the White House feel like home.
You know, people ask me, what's -- you know, what do I miss most about Chicago or my old life. And the truth is, is that what I've discovered by living in the White House is probably what we all know. It's not the house you live in or the car you drive or the motorcade you're riding in, I love the White House cause my family is there. And we could be living under a rock and if we've got each other and we can laugh and talk over dinner, then it doesn't matter where we are or whose mad at you or whose criticizing you. You know, it's family at the core.
And Let's Move is about that, too. It's about reminding us about those cultural pieces that sometimes we lose; family dinners, slowing down a little bit, saying no once in awhile, getting to the parent-teacher conference, creating community that has good food and places to run, and you know, making communities safe so that kids can play outside until dark -- right? -- and that they don't have to be scheduled to exercise because they're running all day long and sweating, just like kids were supposed to do. Like we did, you know, not that long ago in communities all across the country.
HUCKABEE: Oh, it's been awhile ago for me.
I want to tell you how much I appreciate. You've been a wonderful guest and I thank you for being so gracious and giving this much of your time.
OBAMA: Well, thank you for the work that you've done on this issue. I'm here cause you've been a leader on this issue for so long.
HUCKABEE: Thank you.
OBAMA: And you've inspired me to take on this issue. So it's because of that kind of courage and foresight and vision that we're here, so thank you.
HUCKABEE: Well, I've been kind of off the wagon this last year, and I'm getting back on as a tribute to your efforts as Let's Move. And hopefully before --
OBAMA: And we'll work on our arms together.
HUCKABEE: I got to work on more than just my arms, but that too.
OBAMA: Next interview -- shirt off.
HUCKABEE: Oh, you don't want that.
And on that, we're finished.
Boy, are we ever finished.
Mrs. Obama, thank you. This has been a delight.
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much.
HUCKABEE: Thank you very much.