Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Obama’

New Mandela School and First Lady in South Africa

Photo: The Nelson Mandela Foundation

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, is visiting South Africa and Botswana to bring focus to youth leadership, health, and wellness. A friend of ours, Alan Fitts, is her Trip Director, and blogged on the White House website about their first travel day, here. Mrs. Obama’s work with young women around the world is inspiring and bringing Sasha and Malia along on this journey is making it an extraordinary trip on all fronts. The family met with Nelson Mandela on their first day. Madiba (Mandela’s Xhosa clan name) has had some health scares, and was hospitalized when we were in South Africa in February, but as the figurative head of a nation and an entire age, a visit must have been a true high point, and likely a dream come true.

Mandela is having one of his own dreams come true now as well. It was announced last week that a new high school will be built in his birthplace, Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape. The Mandela School of Science and Technology will go far above expectations and honor: the original budget was state-of-the-art and projected to be about $4 million dollars. Entrepreneurs from around the world have joined forces to support the effort, and the goal is being expanded (as is the cost, now nearly $14 million…but not due to waste, due to dreaming larger to “fulfill Mandela’s dream”). Boarding facilities, a sports center, library, and auditorium are included, to give the youth today chances far beyond those that the young Mandela who was born here could have imagined.

White House Conference on Bullying Prevention

Today there is a summit at the nation’s capital, with President Obama and Michelle Obama, who have gathered leaders of education, students, parents, educators, policy makers, leaders of youth-focused non-profit groups, and family experts to look at the serious, often critical, sometimes lethal issue of bullying. The epidemic of cruelty among youth is much more serious than when I was young. It is easy for us to forget the trouble of youth, and easier to assume it is no worse than when we were there–“Kids tease, sometimes fight…we did, what’s the big deal?” It is a huge deal, with constant communication via text and cell phone and facebook and Twitter, rumors and cruelty pass from person to person like wildfire, and a victim is defenseless against the barrage. Children are killing themselves because it is so hopeless. When a child makes a thoughtful and considered decision to reach for a rope or gun or pills, trying to get through day-to-day before that…we know we are broken as a society that stands for our young people.

The White House Conference on Bullying Prevention is going on today, and is accessible via those same means that spread the hate among some kids: facebook and the Internet. Use electronica for healing, listen in to the conversation, participate remotely, and be involved in making youth a nurturing time. Being unique and different is a wonderful asset to society–we have to make sure kids know that being different is something to be wished for, never punished.

September 11-National Day of Service and Remembrance

Last year, on the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the White House declared that date as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. In honor of the heroism and selflessness of first responders, the passengers of Flight 93 who sacrificed their own lives trying to save others, and the men and women who subsequently joined the armed services because of that event, Americans unite in solidarity and compassion (and try to ignore the droning noise from willfully ignorant pretend clergy in Florida who want to burn holy texts).

The declaration of this day as one of service is intended for all of us to honor those who lost and risked their lives that bright sunny morning by being of service to others and our communities. Any thoughts as to what your service commitment will be tomorrow? First Lady Michelle Obama, for instance, is volunteering with Mission Serve, an initiative bringing together civilian and military communities through service and volunteerism. “Working alongside active duty members of the military, wounded warriors, veterans, military spouses, and students,” she said, “I’ll help renovate a community center at a retirement community for veterans in McLean, Virginia.”

To find a service volunteer project near you, plug your zip code or volunteer interests into the search engine at and a listing of organizations needing volunteers tomorrow, and onward, will make it an easy step to making a difference.

Summertime Service for Youth

I’ve seen a whole mess of caps and gowns around town today, so Memorial Day, Summer Solstice, all of that seems secondary to the real start of summer—School is Out!

First Lady Michelle Obama helps fill care packages during a Congressional Service event at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2010. (by Lawrence Jackson)

Ahh the dreamy days of 3 months of unplanned time. When I was a kid it meant a ton of bike riding, skateboarding, playing tag under the streetlights, and certainly getting up to our fair share of no good…but it didn’t mean an inordinate amount of time in front of a TV (or more likely today, computer). We cherished being outside. Not so much today’s kids. The lure of video games, Wii, TV reruns, and facebook are all far too strong to get them out the front door. In a White House press brief, “Research shows that many of our young people suffer learning set-backs and develop unhealthy eating habits during the summer break. Children can lose more than two months’ progress in reading achievement over the summer, and inactivity during the summer months can cause children to gain weight three times faster than during the school year.”

To counteract the ennui and inaction, First Lady Michelle Obama is extending her First Lady Platform against childhood obesity (Let’s Move) and spearheading “United We Serve: Let’s Read, Let’s Move” Here are some ways for you to get involved, motivating your own family and others. You could

  • Build or rehab a playground
  • Clear a walking trail
  • Sponsor a sports tournament or camp for kids
  • Support a child to meet the President’s active lifestyle challenge
  • Conduct summer feeding program outreach
  • Create a community garden
  • Glean a local farm and donate the fresh produce
  • Read to kids
  • Organize a book drive
  • Organize a back to school supplies drive

This summertime energizing movement is a joint project of the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Interior, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences…and US.

A little Wii, a pinch of facebooking and keeping in touch, a daily dose of reading this blog…it needn’t add up to an entire summer day. Fill the rest of the time, and make sure there is ample food/nutrition and play opportunities for families that cannot supply enough on their own. When the school bell rings in September, you’ll look back at this summer with satisfaction, knowing you did something more than score a personal best on Super Mario Brothers.