Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, introducing First Lady Michelle Obama, May 5, 2009

Susan E. Rice
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
May 5, 2009


It is a great honor to welcome the First Lady to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The folks gathered here are truly the foot soldiers on the front lines of the new administration's efforts to engage the world in an entirely different manner. They are tireless, they are talented and they're tremendously dedicated.

They are Foreign Service, Civil Service, military and others who are making the change in our foreign policy real every day, in word and deed, and in style and substance. Their work ranges from negotiating Security Council resolutions to helping craft global policies on the rights of women from helping the 191 other countries that we host here in New York navigate the shoals of our city, state and federal governments, to ensuring that American taxpayer dollars that we contribute to the United Nations are well spent. They do it all with great skill, hard work, and profound patriotism. And it's a personal privilege for me to call them colleagues and friends.

It's now my pleasure to introduce our special guest.

By any standard, Michelle Obama has already had a truly exceptional career. After Princeton and Harvard Law School, she moved to the world of corporate law. And after a few years, she left to pursue her true passion: moving people to join together to serve their communities and make the American promise real for all of us. She worked on urban planning issues in Chicago's City Hall, helped found an AmeriCorps program that prepares Chicago's youth for public service, and she promoted her powerful vision of volunteerism and community service as a vice president at the University of Chicago's Medical Center.

You can draw a straight line from her idealism to her current life. As you put it in your own words, "I was raised to believe that when you get, you give back."

And during your extraordinary journey from the South Side to the White House, you have shown Sasha, Malia, my own daughter, Maris and girls all over this great nation the face of a very different First Lady. You've been an incredible ambassador to my hometown Washington, DC-not to the power part of Washington, but to the part of Washington that so many people don't pay enough attention to, the real city that is my home town, from Anacostia to Shaw to the shores of the Potomac.

You insist on opening up the people's house to the people. You insist on strengthening our sacred bond with the families of the outstanding men and women who serve in our armed forces and keep America safe. And you insist on an America based on merit, excellence, diversity, responsibility and community. And you insist on reminding people that your extraordinary life is rooted in the ordinary women surrounded you-in your words, the grandmothers, teachers, aunts, cousins, neighbors, who taught you the quiet strength and dignity.

And that's what brings me to the next generation of Obama women. We wouldn't be good hosts if we didn't have a little something for Sasha and Malia.

I have to admit, there are even a couple UN agencies I'm not sure I heard of when I took this job, as many as there are but anybody who's ever gone trick-or-treating with their family is likely to have heard of UNICEF. And we have some gifts for Sasha and Malia that are inspired by UNICEF, are some children's books, some UNICEF soccer balls, and some light-up pens to help them continue light up our world.

I have to tell you, when I look at Michelle Obama, I see a woman that I can truly relate to. That's partly a function of the fact that we're more or less the same age and at the same stage in life. But your life, lived in so many ways in public and private, reminds us of the struggles and the tensions and glories we're all dealing with on an everyday basis-the balance between work and family, between our communities and our country, the passion we spend on our causes and the hopes we cherish for our children. You do it all, with amazing grace.

And what is most special about this wonderful person is what a regular human being she really is. Down to earth, charming, funny, and wicked smart.

We love your style, your warmth, your brilliance, and your enduring commitment to our children and to a better future for us all. Michelle is not just our First Lady, she is an extraordinary human being who has come and in many ways graced our country and the world.

I can't tell you how excited we are to have you here at the U.S. Mission. Colleagues, friends, please join me in welcoming the First Lady of the United States.


PRN: 2009/089