Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 13, 2011
Remarks by The First Lady in Roundtable with Members of Ma'o Organic Farms
November 12, 2011
11:55 A.M. HAST
MR. ENOS: So, aloha, and welcome to Ma'o Organic Farms. I'll be your moderator.
MRS. OBAMA: Excellent. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: And on behalf of our organization and our community, we're really, really grateful. And we welcome you for what you do, not just because of your Office of the First Lady -- which is -- so fun.
MRS. OBAMA: It's all right. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: You've really done a lot of work to lift up the things we do and we're practicing here, so we're so honored to have a fellow comrade in arms, if you will, to visit us. And we'd like to start today's event with just an introduction.
MRS. OBAMA: Okay.
MR. ENOS: We'll just go around, and our team is going to just give a little bit more about themselves, and share some things. And we'll pick up a conversation after that.
MRS. OBAMA: Great.
MS. ABBOTT: So, aloha again. My name is Maisha Abbott. I am 20 years old, started working at Ma'o about three years ago. And the reason why I came to this program was because I heard of its college opportunities and I always had a passion to further my education. So that's why I joined. And just by being here, I just realized that it's bigger than just going to school -- it's about changing our community. And afterwards, I plan on getting a bachelor's in fashion design and getting my master's in environmental studies -- and eco-friendly design.
MRS. OBAMA: Awesome. (Applause.) Yes.
MR. KENNEY: Aloha. Welcome to heaven on Earth.
MRS. OBAMA: It is, yes. (Laughter.)
MR. KENNEY: My name is Ed Kenney. I am 43. (Laughter.) I am the chef/owner of Town and Downtown Restaurants. And we've been co-producers with Ma'o for 10-plus years. A year ago, I was asked to sit on the board of directors, and without hesitation, wholeheartedly, said yes. As a chef and a director, I am given the task to, I think, tell the story of Ma'o to 600 hungry people a day. And when you tell the story with food, and with this food, it's incredibly easy. When you taste this food, it's -- you're not just tasting a carrot, you're tasting this youthful enthusiasm, you're tasting youth leadership and mentorship -- you're tasting food security and sustainability. And you will get a chance to taste the food tomorrow.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. Awesome. (Laughter.)
MR. KENNEY: Thanks.
MS. SAMSON: Aloha, my name is Kuuleilani Samson. I was born and raised in Makaha-Waianae all my life. I attended Waianae High School. I graduated in 2008. And in my senior year, I went -- I first heard of Ma'o through one of our majors, Hawaiian studies. And as soon as I graduated, I came into the summer -- program. And there I came into the two-and-a-half-year internship, the youth leadership intern. And I just recently graduated from that program. I just got my AA from Leeward Community College in -- I'm currently at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, working on my bachelor's in Hawaiian studies. I hope to move on towards a master's in education, and I want to teach back at my high school.
MRS. OBAMA: Nice. (Applause.)
MS. SANA: Aloha, my name is Cheryse Sana. I've lived in this valley about my whole life. I'm 22 years old. I came to Ma'o after I graduated in 2007. I heard about Ma'o through my teachers at Waianae High, and also in the Hawaii -- I was just kind of, like, "Oh, what to do?" And I know that they had their college program here, and so I was like -- I always wanted to go to college, so I was like, "Ah, let me just take it." So I came here, and then three years later, I'm the farm co-manager. And I graduated from LCCU with my AA and certificate in community food security. I'm at UH-Manoa -- University of Hawaii, UH-Manoa. And I'm in -- major, and I should be graduating in about a year. So -- with my BA.
MRS. OBAMA: That's awesome.
MS. SANA: And I also want to be a professor when I grow older, or a farmer.
MRS. OBAMA: Awesome. (Applause.)
MR. MILES: I guess I'd better follow suit, then.
MRS. OBAMA: Should I introduce myself?
MR. ENOS: Yes. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I am Michelle Obama. (Laughter and applause.) I am 48 years old. And I am honored to be here. I've heard about all that's been going on here for years and years. We have some very interesting connections to what has been going on here. So I jumped at the opportunity to come and not just see for myself, but to also allow the world to see what you all are doing. As you know, I planted a little garden in my backyard. (Laughter and applause.) And while it's a good food-producer -- we're producing about 1,100* pounds of food every year, we also have a beehive, we've got tons of honey that we're using. We use them as gifts, we give them to the community.
But one of the primary reasons we planted the garden was as a form of education. Childhood obesity is one of my signature issues. Our goal is to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. And our view is that if we teach young people early about how to eat, and we give them a connection to the food that they eat, that they're more excited and interesting -- and interested in what's going on, and that in turn opens up a broader conversation about nutrition and health and movement -- but also deeper issues of access and affordability, which are some of the primary causes of obesity. Because many of our communities -- in underserved communities, kids aren't growing up with vegetables because there are no grocery stores. People don't have that connection.
And we're finding, through our contact with kids, that it is in fact working -- like you guys: You now eat vegetables. You actually know what arugula is. (Laughter.) And you eat it.
MR. MILES: -- favorite.
MRS. OBAMA: That's right -- my favorite, too. Arugula and steak, I like it a lot. (Laughter.) That's good stuff.
MR. PARKER: Say it, man -- it's great.
MRS. OBAMA: But we find the same thing is true with young kids, and if they get their palates adjusted to those very interesting flavors, they stay connected. So we feel like we're just a small part of what you all have been doing for a very long time. And it's important to know that it's working. It's sustaining a community, it's creating a conversation, and it's putting young people to work and giving them futures, which is the most powerful thing. And I am just proud of you all in so many ways.
So I look forward to more discussion. But that's who I am. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. MILES: Aloha, my name is Manny Miles. I'm 27 years old, grew up here in Waianae. Pretty much lived here my whole life. I've been working at Ma'o for 9 years, so, like, I'm the old fart of all the interns.
MRS. OBAMA: You're old, you're old. Old man. (Laughter.)
MR. MILES: I've been here forever. Started with Uncle William back then -- good times. The reason I joined was because I love working outdoors. Funny thing is, I told myself growing up that I'd never be a farmer, because my family, we had a little -- we had about a half-acre plot with corn; we raised chickens, sold the eggs to our neighbors. And I told myself, "You know what? I'm never going to do this -- it's too much work." Funny thing is I'm here doing it, and my dream is to one day have my own farm. I mean, I want to work here in Ma'o for a long time, but I want to be able to grow food for my community and sustain my family with my own farm -- even if it's only, like, half an acre, it's a little something to grow food.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. PARKER: Hi, my name is Derrick Parker. And I'm 21 years old, and I'm an organic farmer.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes!
MR. PARKER: It feels good saying that. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: "I am a farmer!"
MR. PARKER: But I joined the program, I've been here for about almost four years. I graduated from the program -- like these guys -- and now I'm attending UH-Manoa -- University of Hawaii. And I'm hoping to major in music. I want to get a bachelor's, or even achieve my master's in music -- specifically voice, and then become a voice teacher. Also, I do want to, like, stay in touch to farming, because it's a -- it should be a way of -- it's a way of life. So it should be a way of life, and not just work. All of us that are here, we don't just work. This is, like, our life.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. So you can sing, huh?
MR. PARKER: Yeah -- look at that. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: That one escaped me.
MR. PARKER: She gets into it. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, is there -- you got a little something?
MR. PARKER: Really? (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I put you on the spot.
MR. PARKER: Oh, my gosh.
MRS. OBAMA: I didn't plan it. I was just -- (laughter.)
MR. PARKER: Okay. I only know, like, my gospel kind of music, so --
MRS. OBAMA: Okay.
MR. PARKER: (Sings a song.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah! (Applause.) See, just in case you all thought this was about farming -- (laughter) -- you've got gospel music. Very talented crew. Thank you, thank you.
MR. KENNEY: Don't quit your day job. (Laughter.) I'm kidding.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you.
MS. ARASATO: Aloha, my name is Miki, but my real name is Michelle. (Laughter.) I'm 21 years old, and I have been in Ma'o for three years. And I was one that was -- I didn't -- farming was, like, far, far away from my mind. Let alone was helping my community. It wasn't a thing on the list, you know? So I came here. So I came to Ma'o, then I realized, "Oh, this is important and I have to make a difference." Yeah. So after I graduate, I plan -- I want to repeat Ma'o within our community or anywhere on this island. And I plan to do that trying to get my goal, environmental studies, agriculture and Hawaiian studies.
MRS. OBAMA: Awesome. And you're going to be traveling to my home town.
MS. ARASATO: Yeah. I can't wait. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: So, yeah, Chicago in February -- she doesn't realize that it won't be that fun. (Laughter.) So what are you going to Chicago for?
MS. ARASATO: I'm going for the Kellogg Foundation, to go talk with youth and do some empowering over there -- get them hyped. Like how I do here with these guys.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah. (Laughter.) So this is giving you an opportunity to travel the country as well. Good stuff. Just bring a sweater, long underwear.
MS. ARASATO: Okay. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Hats and gloves. Someone who knows cold, help her before she goes. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: Thank you, Miki. Aloha, my name is Kamuela Enos. I am first and foremost honored to work for these guys. They keep me very busy. I am Ma'o's director of social enterprise. I'm also on the White House initiative on the Asian and Pacific islanders. Somehow they chose a farmer from Waianae to get involved.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, it's not a bad choice.
MR. ENOS: It's such a wonderful experience. But I'm born and raised in this community, and my father was heavily active for many years. So sometimes I felt like I had no choice. It was like those Darth Vader scenarios, like, "You're going to do this."
MRS. OBAMA: Right. (Laughter.) "I am your father." (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: Through that, you learn about responsibility and mentorship. And I think that's what led me to where I'm at now. And I really -- like, I believe that we do this because our ancestors were organic farmers. And this gives us a way to walk in their footsteps, but still survive in the context in which we live -- a market economy, a standards-based education system. And the challenges which often face us in our community -- which is called "underserved" by the outside -- but we know the inherent value and assets: the land and the youth. So we are here to kind of show you things that we already know inside all of us. So I really appreciate you being here in Ma'o. (Applause.)
MR. DeMOTTO: Okay. Aloha, my name is Jordan DeMotto. I am 18 years old, and I've been here for about 4 months, so I'm new.
MRS. OBAMA: You're the baby. (Laughter.)
MR. DeMOTTO: Yeah. So in high school, my major was agriculture. So my passion was waking up to having -- getting dirty. So that's why I joined Ma'o. And also because of the support that you can get from your fellow interns, cool managers, and the staff -- with working, schooling, and also your personal issues. After, I want to go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and get my master's in environmental studies.
MRS. OBAMA: Nice. (Applause.)
MR. ENOS: So I have the very daunting task to kind of take all these wonderful ideas and topics, and try to continue this conversation along. But I really wanted to start with maybe some reflections. I mean, we've -- part of their job was to study what your -- the initiatives you've put forth -- like "MyPlate", "Let's Move."
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah.
MR. ENOS: And we want to start -- maybe if you have any reflections on this, what you say today, and to share with them, as a leader, and to give them some advice, maybe, on their path.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah. Well, I just think that the youth leadership piece is key to all of this. Because it's really about continuing to pass what you're learning on and on, because that's what happened: There was a break in that learning, in that connection. So one of the greatest tasks is to not let that break happen again, and that really falls to all of you, because you have the privilege and the opportunity, now, to learn and to carry this forward.
So taking it seriously, as you all are doing; continuing to prepare yourselves, because it's one thing to farm and to talk and to eat and to grow and to connect, but the next step to change requires your preparation. And going to school, and understanding the subject, and understanding how what you do connects to not just the rest of the nation but the rest of the world. These issues are affecting communities all over the globe, and it's important for you to have the substantive foundation to back up your passion.
So I think that that's one of the most key components of this effort, is the fact that you're educating and you're encouraging each other, and young people who will follow you, to go back to school, stay in school, get that foundation -- and then bring that knowledge back. And to continue to pass it on. Everyone here is lucky, as was I -- growing up on the South Side of Chicago, we had some similar issues. We didn't grow up in a beautiful valley, where we could look around and see the connection. But for the few of us who did have some of the opportunities to get an education and go out and learn, feeling that obligation to then reach back and bring other people along.
So the mentorship piece of this stuff is important. You now have to lift people up, whether it's your own brothers and sisters or the kids down the street, or the students that you're going to teach. It is a responsibility that you all have to embrace, to just keep reaching back. But I think you all are doing that. So just keep it up. Keep it up.
MR. ENOS: Thank you. Anybody want to respond to that, just to share some of your thoughts a little bit? Miki, please.
MS. ARASATO: Oh, with the mentoring?
MR. ENOS: Yeah. How does that work here?
MS. ARASATO: Okay. Well, for us working here, it is -- it can be hard sometimes. But, like how Jordan said, we have the support of each other. Like, it sometimes is hard being the bad guy, sometimes being like, "Oh, no, you have to work better. Oh, you got to do your homework." Like, being a good mommy sometimes is hard. But at the same time, those kids didn't have -- most of these guys don't even have that kind of role model to look to, because all around them they just see is negative -- negative things. So we just try to be that positive --
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, everybody here is so positive. You all support each other. It feels like it's easy, but I'm sure that this hasn't been easy. I would love to hear some of the challenges that you face in your own families, in your own communities. Farming is not necessarily the hot thing to do, right? (Laughter.) So what happens when you hang out with your boys and you tell them, "I'm going to farm! I like arugula." (Laughter.) How does that work out? (Laughter.)
MR. PARKER: Well, I guess that's true. It's not really the most popular job. Like, some of my friends, I told them, "I'm an organic farmer." And they’re like, "So when are you going to get out of that? When are you going just" -- because I guess, like, they haven't -- but I can't, like, blame them, or I can't, like, just say it's their fault that they're saying that, or they're trying to bring me down. But it's just that that's how we were raised up -- that's how we were brought up. Even me, like, I saw farming as like a -- it wasn't even a last resort for me. It was like, that's -- who does that? That's so old school -- not realizing the importance of it, and how we're connected to it. This is how we survive, how we -- we take for granted the foods we eat because we can -- there are so many fast-food restaurants; people just -- this easy access thing, and we don't really see the work that goes into it.
Being a farmer for me -- just being able to eat the food that you grow. I mean, you see it from every -- like a child, like your own babies. I have all little babies over here. (Laughter.) You see that seed -- you just see how that seed, and you're continually nurturing it, weeding it every few weeks, make sure it grows well. And then when you finally get the chance to eat it at an awesome restaurant -- Town Restaurant -- it's just that -- see it on the plate, that's like the final --
MRS. OBAMA: It's good, right?
MR. PARKER: The final spot.
MR. KENNEY: It makes my job easy. (Laughter.) You guys do all the work.
MRS. OBAMA: But what kind of pushback have you all gotten? And how do you deal with that? Because you're going it -- for many, you're the first, often, in your families to go to school, to pursue this. What happens when you hit that wall of, "What are you doing?" Have you all faced that?
MS. ARASATO: Oh, yeah. (Laughter.) Every single one.
MR. MILES: I think for me, like, with my family the biggest challenge was getting them to understand that eating healthy is important. I lost my father three years ago, and my family doesn't want to admit that it was due to his health.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah.
MR. MILES: And I tried for years to try and get them to eat healthy. I mean, I grow vegetables for a living. It's not hard to take some home -- that's one of the benefits of working here, we get to take food home. And I tried so many times, like, to cook food for my family. My mom loves it. My dad, he's so stubborn, he's so used to eating, like, Spam, corned beef. But I mean, it just takes a lot to try and get it to work. And slowly it is -- I mean, last Thanksgiving I made, like, some of the beans that we were growing, just sautéed it, and they loved it. I mean, it's just taking those little baby steps. But it's definitely a challenge.
MR. ENOS: Maybe one of you guys want to share about the challenges facing the school side of it, and just the whole different culture that maybe different from what your peers think about what they do after high school.
MS. SAMSON: Yeah, definitely -- like, a lot of my -- okay, so like I said, Ma'o has been sending students to school for, like, 6 years. And I come from the third cohort -- poetry. So I've been here a few years, and our cohort initially started off a little larger than our previous cohort -- about 26 interns. And it slowly dwindled through the years, and that's because people find their own passion on other things, and farming is not for them, or schooling is not for them. Because here in Ma'o -- Ma'o is a special, unique -- it's a special blend of schooling and farming, to train you to be a good leader.
And just like Jordan said, we move off of our support that we get from our fellow workers. And sort of like having our interns and our friends drop out of the program, it's tough to want to stay there. But when we come to the realization of what the bigger mission and the bigger movement is, it is really important to really, like, be able to strive -- what you think is really important.
MR. ENOS: Maisha, you've been silent. Is there anything you want to share about some of this? We're not going to let you slide.
MS. ABBOTT: Definitely, I have faced hardships by being in this program. Just coming from a family background who suffered in obesity and diabetes, and high cholesterol and blood pressure, and stuff like that -- the symptoms that most Waianae people have. Just trying to make my mom to eat more healthy, because she's disabled, and making the decision to stay home and going to school -- yeah, so.
MRS. OBAMA: It's hard stuff, huh?
MS. ABBOTT: Yeah, it's -- but I definitely like the support -- exactly what Jordan said -- that we have here. It's because we each have our own individual stories, and we all go through struggles here, and we just lift each other up by being in this program. And just being in that organic movement -- further education, further pushing the farm to be more successful.
MRS. OBAMA: Well, you all are ahead of the curve. I just -- this -- you've been around for a bit, but this movement is growing all over the place. And the fact that you've got the training and the experience that you have -- I mean, what your families don't understand is that there are -- there will be growing opportunities in not just farming but in policy, in larger discussions in terms of technology, and a whole range of things. And there will be a lot of people catching up with where you are, because you've done this. It's not hard to -- it's not easy to convince them of that now, but trust me --
MS. ABBOTT: Yeah, later.
MRS. OBAMA: -- yeah, it's coming.
MR. ENOS: Yeah, I think that's the key that is captured in our name -- it's youth leadership training, where it's not farming or academics; the goal is that there are pathways to leadership. And maybe -- and I know that leadership and mentorship is a really big piece of the things you're promoting. And maybe some of you can talk about what leadership means to you, and especially what you've learned, and how this program has helped you to understand that. And if anybody wants to pick that up and --
MS. SANA: Leadership -- I can honestly say that when I was in high school -- well, when I was small, until I came here, speaking up was not my thing. I was scared. I was, like, nervous of what people would say because of my own opinion. But coming here, like, it's like they got me out of my shell, and I --
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah.
MS. SANA: -- I won't be stopped. (Laughter.) And, like, it's good because when you don't stop, sometimes more ideas come out -- not only from you but from other people. And this leadership, I guess, is -- what I've learned from this, being a leader in the shed and on the farm to my peers and the younger cohorts, is that it's not only me running it, it's all of us. Sometimes, like, they'll remind me, like, "Oh, aren't you supposed to do this first?" (Laughter.) I'll say --
MRS. OBAMA: It's like, "Aahhhh."
MS. SANA: Yes, you're right. Well, you're teaching me. And I tell them, "You know what? You're teaching me, too. You're backing me up" -- and, like, how I would probably say to other people. And, gosh, if you'd seen me 4 years ago, you would not even recognize me.
MRS. OBAMA: I hope not.
MS. SANA: It's like I'm a whole other person now. I actually remember -- I was the class valedictorian, and I had to give a speech, why I like the -- Hawaiian coast, which was probably like 1,000 people. And it was, like, really nerve-racking. I couldn't even speak; couldn't even understand me. And I'm here talking to you, and -- (laughter) -- enunciating, and --
MRS. OBAMA: It's good. That is good. (Laughter and applause.) Enunciating, making all kinds of sense.
MS. SANA: Yeah. (Laughter.) I make sense now. I don't even remember my speech, but I'll definitely remember this. (Laughter.) And just -- leadership to me -- to me, growing up, I always wanted to do my culture. It might not be growing taro consistently, or sweet potato, like how our ancestors did. But it's a part of what we do, and we're doing it a 21st-century way. We're respecting our land. We're trying to have that connection. And back then, like how Derrick was saying, it was a way of life -- it was a way of life. It wasn't work. It was --
MRS. OBAMA: Survival.
MS. SANA: -- survival. And I think we have -- nowadays, we have this mental block, like, "Oh, we got to grow food to survive." Back then, it was, like, to every ancestor -- all of our ancestors, it was like, "We got to grow food to just grow food." (Laughter.) It's common sense.
MR. KENNEY: What would you do?
MS. SANA: And my goal is to change that mentality to back then, because if we don't know where -- I mean, we heard it all before, so -- because if we don't know our past, it's going to happen again.
MRS. OBAMA: That's right.
MS. SANA: And we have it there -- it's all there. It's in books, it's in oral history. We have to use it. We have to use our resources and provide ourselves, to grow bigger, to expand, to farm the -- the Naval Base, hopefully someone gives it up and we can farm it and that -- (laughter and applause.) It not only provides us a farm, but it provides our community, people outside of our community. You know how much people want to be here, but just because, like, our restriction, it's just kind of building on our community first. And it's just -- we want to do so many things, but how can we do it? That's my question. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: This is the beginning.
MS. SANA: Yeah, it's the beginning.
MRS. OBAMA: It's this -- the same way that you talk about little by little changing habits and changing beliefs -- you're already doing this. I mean, just hearing about how Ma'o has grown; you started with what, how many --
MR. ENOS: Five acres.
MRS. OBAMA: You started with 5 acres. You have how many now?
MR. ENOS: We have 24, approximately.
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, that is change. And that's something -- I think that's another part of leadership, too, is understanding that -- and I say this, the President says this -- change -- meaningful change does take time. And the thing that I would urge you not to be is so impatient that you give up before you get -- right? Be patient! (Laughter.) Because oftentimes we expect things instantaneously. And this community didn't arrive here in a few years, it took generations. So it's going to take some time to wind this back down.
The key is to stay the course, and to not let the great be the enemy of the good. I mean, you may not achieve everything that you envision right away, but that doesn't mean you turn around, that doesn't mean you stop. That means you keep pushing it forward, step by step.
And that's how we're approaching this obesity initiative. That's why we set a generational goal. It would have been ridiculous for me to say, in 10 years we're going to -- or in 5 years we're going to change the way people have thought about eating and living. It doesn't happen that way. We start with kids. We start with introducing them. We start with their habits, and it's -- the impact is really going to be on their kids, and how they pass that on.
So patience is a big part of this. And the President has to deal with patience. As the leader of our country -- there are a lot of people who are like, "Why isn't everything fixed now?" It's like, he's been President for 3 years. (Laughter.) Some things take time.
And I always say, the only thing that happens in an instant is destruction, right? You can take decades to build something up -- tornado comes through, it's gone, right? So important things: Not just this movement, but your lives, right? When you become parents, raising your children, that is a forever proposition. And believe me, kids require patience. (Laughter.) They don't do anything right away. (Laughter.) So it's good to start practicing. Many of your parents will think that, too. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: That's a long way off.
MRS. OBAMA: Right -- it's a long way off. But let me tell you -- you'll be in training. So this -- you are doing it now. Change is happening. You just think of how you've changed in 3 years -- did you say 3 years? You have become a completely different person. Now, what if you had given up after the first year, when you hadn't changed right away, right? You were still shy, you were still a little hesitant, you were still a little nervous, a little insecure. But you stuck with this initiative, and now you can't shut up. (Laughter.) And that's a good thing.
MS. SANA: It's a good thing.
MRS. OBAMA: It's a very good thing. So just don't lose heart. There will be victories. The flow of change is up and down. But as long as it's -- as Barack says -- we're moving towards a more positive place. That's what you're looking towards -- you're looking towards the long term. So be patient.
MR. ENOS: And I think that arc that he refers to is, like, it's really important. And I think as farmers, we know that you can't plant something and expect to eat the next day.
MRS. OBAMA: That's right.
MR. ENOS: -- of creation, investing is key to what the program is based on. And this idea of generations, and one of the rocks of our program was Uncle William Aila, Sr. -- that they teach us this notion of what it means to work in a valley for decades, and to grow your family here, and to come back and give, and teach love, respect and willingness to work. So I think having this generational approach as well to the program is key. It's not this generation within the internship, the generation within the community that come and serve in the same space.
Maybe could one of you just quickly talk about what it was like to work under a mentor, like Uncle William, Sr.? Like, maybe Derrick.
MR. PARKER: Oh, okay. Well, I'm blessed to have the opportunity to have worked with Papa Aila -- I call him -- yeah, we call him "Papa Aila." But just because he -- it's just he's a good role model. I just thought the fact that he's lived a long time, he's lived a good life, he's -- if you've seen him working, he's unbelievable, because he's just -- like, he works faster than me. He's just -- the way he works. And you can see, he's not just, like -- he's not just working to work; he's working because there's something behind that pushing him. He has that passion -- the passion for farming, the passion for us as youth. And then that's exactly what we're learning now, is that we're not just -- I'm not just waking up at five in the morning or four in the morning to come here and work and then go home. There's more to it. There's just something that's behind us, pushing us. There's a passion that's pushing us to come to work, to do what we got to do -- to stay the extra 30 minutes, the extra 3 hours, or 2. But it's --
MRS. OBAMA: Whatever it takes to get it done.
MR. PARKER: Yeah, it's more than just us. It's not just our selfish goals or our own -- whatever we want. There's more to it. That's what -- we learned that from him.
MR. ENOS: I think at this point we're going to start wrapping down. But I want to create a space where all of us can go around and just say one last -- if there's one last thing you want to share with the First Lady, or if she wants to share with us.
MRS. OBAMA: Or if you have a question -- whatever you --
MR. ENOS: If you have a question. So we can --
MRS. OBAMA: But don't feel pressured.
MR. ENOS: Don't feel pressured. (Laughter.)
MS. ABBOTT: Starting with me? How about we start with Jordan?
MR. ENOS: Yeah, Jordan.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, she put you back on the -- that was good. (Laughter.)
MR. DeMOTTO: I guess just, like -- because I just started, and being in Ma'o has really, like, inspired me to -- because me, too, I'm kind of shy. But then I'm here, speaking to you -- and in front of a lot of people. (Laughter.) It's really, like, helping me to be a better person.
MRS. OBAMA: That's good. That's good. And we expect big things. No pressure! (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: Thank you. Thank you, thank you very much. It was an honor to have you here, and it's an honor to work for your husband.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Keep it up. Michelle! (Laughter.)
MS. ARASATO: Just so you know, you're awesome. But they're reflecting on what all this -- all this knowledge you sent us. Thank you so much for doing that. And now I know, like, pushing these guys, I have all this -- all I can share with them, all this -- and you're such a beautiful -- thank you for coming. Thank you -- thank you so much.
MRS. OBAMA: My pleasure.
MR. PARKER: Well, I have a question, so --
MRS. OBAMA: Yes!
MR. PARKER: Well, where -- like, the elementary I went to, it was -- elementary, and we had a farm there. That's kind of like -- I feel like I'm going back to my roots, where I was at. And some of the things that I'm learning here, I learned previously, and I remember them when I was younger. And I was just wondering, like, how could we incorporate farm -- like, I know -- I agree with gardens, and I have a garden in my own house. But I just like the concept of farming. Like, when you think of -- when I think of farming, you think of producing food to feed people, and like it's -- more than like -- yeah, just, when I think about that. So I wonder, like, how -- maybe how could we have more farms, and in our elementary schools? Like, across the world?
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, yeah. Well, that's something that we're really encouraging through "Let's Move" and the Department of Agriculture, HHS -- there are a bunch of departments that are giving grants to schools and communities to promote gardening. And one of my hopes is -- this isn't -- but I want to work on developing more resources that we can use to give out to encourage and support. There are nonprofit organizations that do it, but I think one of the first steps is really just lifting it up. And we're seeing that change. There are more -- I get so many letters. We have so many wonderful stories from community groups and local schools that are planting their own gardens, they're changing the way they eat, they're incorporating nutrition education into every aspect of the curriculum. The Department of Agriculture has something called U.S. Healthier Schools, and we're trying to encourage schools to become sort of gold-standard rated, which means that they're making changes in their curriculum, they're changing the nutrition levels in their cafeterias, they're incorporating community gardens -- they're doing a whole range of things. And we've doubled the number of U.S. schools, which was our goal for one year. We've already surpassed that, and we're going to keep pushing.
So we're starting, and I think that you all are ambassadors in that respect. That may be another outreach effort that you all can do as part of your youth leadership, is identifying some schools, working with them, being the mentor -- because many schools don't do it because they don't have the knowledge base or the resources. And you all have all of that. So wouldn't it be wonderful to pick some of the key schools in the area that have the potential, raise some money, and share that knowledge. That's how it happens.
MR. KENNEY: Yeah, passing the torch.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, passing the torch. That would be great to do. And I would love to come visit some of those schools. I come here regularly. So --
MS. ABBOTT: Visit more often.
MRS. OBAMA: I would love to! (Laughter.) Let me tell my staff -- put Hawaii in the rotation; once a month. (Laughter.)
MR. PARKER: We'll have -- arugula for you. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: It's a great idea. But I'd love to see you all do more of that. You can lead it up -- you can head it up there. You got it. No pressure! (Laughter.)
MR. MILES: I guess for me, I have a kind of a similar question to Derrick. Because, like, for me -- I've been married for a couple of years, had a child --
MRS. OBAMA: You just sound like you're such an old man. (Laughter.)
MR. MILES: Around them I am.
MRS. OBAMA: Like, 26, married -- (laughter.)
MR. MILES: I know what you mean about the patience. (Laughter.) But my wife and I, we made a decision to buy a home instead of buying farmland, because farmland is so expensive here in Hawaii. I mean, a half-acre of land costs more than buying a three-bedroom house. And I guess my question is, how does someone like me -- and not even -- I know a lot of people. Like, people usually don't want to be farmers, but I have friends that do want to be farmers, and how do people like us go about doing that? How do we get the funds? And because my goal is eventually to have Waianae be the hub of all organic agriculture here in Hawaii. I mean, we're in the middle of the ocean, 2,000 miles away from California -- we need to somehow figure out how to grow our own food. And I'd like to be a part of that.
MRS. OBAMA: Well, developing some policy groups that are thinking about how to finance that; getting government officials to sit down with you all and think through financing. Thinking about co-oping, coming together, pooling resources together. I mean, the truth is land in Hawaii is incredibly expensive. But again, starting small and growing from there.
And Gary, who is the founder here, I'm sure he's got some knowledge to bear on -- how do you replicate this model is essentially what you're talking about. But that's a good topic to form some discussion groups, get some other young people, some business leaders -- pull folks together and start thinking it through.
MR. MILES: We'll form a working group, and we'll keep you apprised on your next visit, next year.
MRS. OBAMA: Sounds good. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: Actually, we got this sign, though, that we’re going to wrap things up.
MRS. OBAMA: What, we got a sign?
MR. ENOS: We got a sign.
MRS. OBAMA: Who’s giving signs? (Laughter.)
MS. SAMSON: Can I ask my question?
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, yeah, we’ve got time. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: Okay, if we have time from the First Lady, go ahead.
MS. SAMSON: I really wanted to ask my question.
MRS. OBAMA: Uh-oh, I’m getting the stink-eye. (Laughter.) Ask it quick, before I get in trouble. I don’t seem them.
MS. SAMSON: I love what you’re doing with the “Let’s Move”. But then, I guess, my question is, what’s after “Let’s Move”? It’s in schools now, but what’s after we may leave the schools, when they go back into their community and they have to fight that? Where is the -- how do we build on opportunities to build -- to keep going up, and not to -- they have this hope and then -- it’s sad to say sometimes they just go straight back down. And that’s how it is --
MR. ENOS: Continuity? Like, how do you continue the --
MS. SAMSON: -- yeah, for us. And, like, that's what I brought up in previous conversations, and it’s kind of going off now, is the idea -- a lot of people like to use pipelines. I’m using the idea of an -- is like a stream that comes straight down. But then in the -- thinking on -- like, I was just thinking, like, what I guess my ancestors was like challenging me. And I was just thinking, like, real -- like, back in the day, like, you know, it wasn’t just -- it wasn’t -- first of all, it wasn’t a pipe; it was a stream the water went down into the ocean. The water went up into the air, and it somehow comes back and it revives the whole land of the air that we breathe and it’s part of who we are. And I just want to keep that going. How is it that we get people from two-year college to four-year college; four-year college to getting their M.A., and providing, in the same sense, food -- access to good food from their elementary health to the intermediate health to high school health.
And college, people have more options now and there’s a lot of good food at college.
MRS. OBAMA: But you still have to have the knowledge base to make the choices.
MR. ENOS: Yes, you still have to be educated to make those choices and to maybe even have that support. I know for us it’s a lot more easier because we all -- we are educated. But I guess it just falls back in replicating this model in other places to --
MRS. OBAMA: Well, with “Let’s Move,” we’ve really had to think about it in a multipronged approach, because while we focus a lot on schools, “Let’s Move” is really about galvanizing a community. I mean, the goals are much bigger than just schools -- because we know that kids can’t make choices if their parents don’t have information and if they don’t have a -- and parents can’t make good choices if they don’t have a community feeding into those choices, again. So you can’t tell a mother, "Add more fruits and vegetables to your kids’ plates," and then the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away and requires a cab ride, a bus ride. It’s just not practical. So that mother may want to make the change, but if she doesn’t have the resources and she doesn’t have a community supporting them, it’s all just talk.
So that’s why we have to look at accessibility and affordability. We’re working with mayors and local elected officials, in trying to get them to be a part of what we call “Let’s Move Cities and Towns," where mayors and local officials start making commitments, affordable commitments, because it’s tough in these economic times when all cities and towns are squeezed economically.
But how are we building our communities to make them healthier? What kind of playgrounds and walkways and bike paths are we utilizing? We’re calling on chefs. We have “Let’s Move Chefs to Schools." We’re calling on chefs all around the country to adopt a school and to work with them on changing their menus and getting kids involved.
So we -- this isn’t a one-shot deal, and it’s not -- again, it’s not an instant goal. It’s a generational goal. And I would urge you to think big. Because it is true, you can’t make change in a vacuum. You can’t ask a child to make a change and then plop him down in a community that’s not supporting that. It is true -- you’re just setting them up to fail. So the goals do have to be big. And that can be daunting, especially when the little stuff is already hard. But you don’t do this alone. You have to have a coalition of people that represent so many different factions of a community.
You have to -- just like Ma’o farms wouldn’t be successful if it plopped down here and it didn’t have connections, and you weren’t talking to people, and local residents didn’t feel some ownership -- it wouldn’t survive. And the same thing is true for this initiative: pull other people in. You’ve got -- buy in your local elected officials. Find the foundation leaders out there. Find the businesses that are -- that can help support this. It takes a community to make this happen.
So it’s a heavy lift, but one step at a time. One stays -- yeah. And you talk good. (Laughter.)
MR. MILES: Yeah, you're new.
MRS. OBAMA: You can convince anybody to do anything now. (Laughter.)
MR. ENOS: So we would like to honor you with -- to close, like, all of our -- we didn’t have an opening protocol, but we have a brief Oli Mahalo for you, and we would like to share it at this time. So thank you for your time.