THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
___________________________________________________________For Immediate Release
October 2, 2009
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
9:21 A.M. CEST
MRS. OBAMA: President Rogge, ladies and gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs of the
International Olympic Committee: I am honored to be here.
I was born and raised on Chicago's South Side, not far from where the Games
would open and close. Ours was a neighborhood of working families -- families
with modest homes and strong values.
Sports were what brought our community together. They strengthen our ties to
Growing up, when I played games with the kids in my neighborhood, we picked
sides based not on who you were, but what you could bring to the game. Sports
taught me self-confidence, teamwork, and how to compete as an equal.
Sports were a gift I shared with my dad -- especially the Olympic Games.
Some of my best memories are sitting on my dad's lap, cheering on Olga and
Nadia, Carl Lewis, and others for their brilliance and perfection. Like so many
young people, I was inspired. I found myself dreaming that maybe, just maybe,
if I worked hard enough, I, too, could achieve something great.
But I never dreamed that the Olympic flame might one day light up lives in my
But today, I can dream, and I am dreaming of an Olympic and Paralympic Games in
Chicago that will light up lives in neighborhoods all across America and all
across the world; that will expose all our neighborhoods to new sports and new
role models; that will show every child that regardless of wealth, or gender, or
race, or physical ability, there is a sport and a place for them, too.
That's why I'm here today. I'm asking you to choose Chicago. I'm asking you to
And I'm not asking just as the First Lady of the United States, who is eager to
welcome the world to our shores. And not just as a Chicagoan, who is proud and
excited to show the world what my city can do. Not just as a mother raising two
beautiful young women to embrace athleticism and pursue their full potential.
I'm also asking as a daughter.
See, my dad would have been so proud to witness these Games in Chicago. And I
know they would have meant something much more to him, too.
You see, in my dad's early thirties, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
And as he got sicker, it became harder for him to walk, let alone play his
favorite sports. But my dad was determined that sports continue to be a vital
lifeline -- not just to the rest of the world, but to me and my brother.
And even as we watched my dad struggle to hold himself up on crutches, he never
stopped playing with us. And he refused to let us take our abilities for
granted. He believed that his little girl should be taught no less than his
son. So he taught me how to throw a ball and a mean right hook better than any
boy in my neighborhood. But more importantly, my dad taught us the fundamental
rules of the game, rules that continue to guide our lives today: to engage with
honor, with dignity, and fair play.
My dad was my hero.
And when I think of what these Games can mean to people all over the world, I
think about people like my dad. People who face seemingly insurmountable
challenges, but never let go. They work a little harder, but they never give
Now, my dad didn't live to see the day that the Paralympic Games would become
the force that they are today. But if he had lived to see this day -- if he
could have seen the Paralympic Games share a global stage with the Olympic
Games, if he could have witnessed athletes who compete and excel and prove that
nothing is more powerful than the human spirit, I know it would have restored in
him the same sense of unbridled possibility that he instilled in me.
Chicago's vision for the Olympic and Paralympic Movement is about so more than
what we can offer the Games -- it's about what the Games can offer all of us.
It's about inspiring this generation, and building a lasting legacy for the
next. It's about our responsibility as Americans not just to put on great
Games, but to use these Games as a vehicle to bring us together; to usher in a
new era of international engagement; and to give us hope; and to change lives
all over the world.
And I've brought somebody with me today who knows a little something about
change. My husband, the President of the United States -- Barack Obama.
END 9:27 A.M. CEST