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Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama rang in the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, with a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

First Lady Michelle Obama rang in the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, with a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Julia Arciga.

While you were spending your spring break at the beach getting tropical, First Lady Michelle Obama was in D.C. getting cultural.

The First Lady held a celebration in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday in honor of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Here’s what you missed:

1. Celebrating culture

To introduce Obama, University of Maryland student Ashley Azmoodeh spoke about her own family’s connection to the holiday and its importance.

“The most memorable celebration from my childhood, one that we continue to celebrate annually, is Nowruz, meaning ‘New Day,’” Azmoodeh said.

The First Lady paid homage to the holiday by noting its long history and cultural significance for people around the world.

“For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia and all around the world, including here in the United States, have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the Earth in spring time,” Obama said.

Obama also presented the White House Haft Seen, the traditional table setting of Nowruz. The Haft Seen, which translates to “the seven S’s,” features seven items placed on a table to symbolize seven new hopes for the new year, including blessings, patience, love, sweetness and rebirth.

2. Local traditions with a worldview

Nowruz at the White House was designed as a celebration of diversity and global connections. Guests, including local leaders in business, education, government and entertainment, packed the East Room.

Keeping with the local trend, guest chef Maziar Farivar of the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown cooked a meal for the guests. The menu aimed to celebrate the importance of family by taking old family recipes from White House staffers and giving them a gourmet upgrade.

“I think it’s so fitting that we’re holding this celebration here today because one of my favorite things about the White House is how it is truly the people’s house,” Obama said. “A house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country, and Nowruz is one of those traditions.”

The Maryland-based Silk Road Dance Company also performed dances from around the world.

“I hope that you feel at home, and feel the welcome, the love, the spirit of this holiday,” Obama said. “I hope you enjoy the food, the friendship and just being at the White House. Isn’t it cool?”

3. The renewal of a ‘new day’

During her remarks, the First Lady talked about the changing weather and arrival of spring in D.C., connecting spring to the themes of rebirth and renewal celebrated for Nowruz.

While presenting the White House Haft Seen, Obama mentioned some items that were displayed on the table.

“We’ve got grass sprouts that represent rebirth and renewal and nature. We’ve got an apple for health and beauty. We have crushed berry spice that represent the sunrise and the spice of life,” she said. “And after a long winter, we could use a little bit of all of that, right? We’re finally thawing out.”

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Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama will visit the Politics & Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Avenue next Tuesday. Photo courtesy of The White House.

First lady Michelle Obama will sign her book about the White House vegetable garden at a local bookstore next Tuesday.

Obama will sign one copy of “American Grown” per customer at the Politics & Prose Bookstore located at 5015 Connecticut Ave. on May 7. Doors for the event will open at 9 a.m. and close at 11 a.m.

Customers must buy a copy of the $30 book, which was published in May 2012, at the bookstore May 2 starting at 9 a.m. to join the book signing.

Obama’s book chronicles the White House Kitchen Garden, planted in 2009, which grew alongside the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity. The 272-page book includes recipes, a history of gardens at the White House and health tips. Proceeds go toward the National Park Foundation.

White House staff will collect individual security details from customers in person on Thursday, and all attendees must pass a U.S. Secret Service background check.

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First Lady Michelle Obama, who has championed healthy eating during her time in the White House, stressed that parents needed to set examples for their children to fight off obesity.  Samuel Klein | Assistant Photo Editor

First Lady Michelle Obama told a packed house in Lisner Auditorium Friday that the fight against childhood obesity has made headway, with strides such as Reebok’s before-school exercise program, but American families must still make better lifestyle choices.

Obama, honorary chair of the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, gave the keynote speech for the annual Building a Healthier Future Summit. The first lady has championed healthy living during her time in the White House, launching the Let’s Move campaign in 2010, which promises to eradicate childhood obesity in a generation.

“Together, slowly but surely, we’re beginning to turn the tide on childhood obesity in America,” she said, citing the declining obesity rates among elementary school-aged children in Mississippi and California.

Global fitness brand Reebok announced Friday a $30 million three-year investment to promote physical activity. It will expand its early morning fitness program called Boks, which currently runs in 200 elementary schools, to 1,000 schools by 2015.

American football player Eli Manning, a sponsor of the program, said his visit to a New York City school that offered Boks inspired him.

“To know that, because of the Boks program, these kids are eager to get up an hour earlier each day and they’re more confident in everything that they do, it’s just as rewarding for me as winning the Superbowl,” the New York Giants quarterback said.

Obama called Reebok’s plans a “groundbreaking investment,” but added that parents in America still need education about nutrition, access to healthy food and ways to set examples for their children in their daily lives.

“It wasn’t that long ago that I was a working mom, juggling a demanding job and two small children and a husband who traveled,” she said. “Back then, something as simple as a grocery shopping required a finely-honed plan of attack.”

She said TV and the Internet also play important roles in how children think about eating, and called on food marketing to be both “responsible and profitable.”

Introducing the first lady, University President Steven Knapp highlighted the School of Public and Health Services’ department of exercise science and GW’s Urban Food Task Force.

“Mrs. Obama has inspired many individuals and institutions, including our University, to look for innovative ways of improving the health of our global communities,” Knapp, whose wife is a nutritionist, said. The University also announced last month that it is planning to build an urban food institute within several years.

As Obama began his speech, she thanked Knapp for “the wonderful work this university is doing to forward the agenda of nutrition and fitness.”

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., another honorary member of the Partnership for a Healthier America, announced the winner of the event’s innovation challenge. He presented a $10,000 check to Dennis Ai, a Northwestern University student who invented a video game that teaches children about healthy eating called JiveHealth.

Friday’s event in Lisner ended the three-day D.C. summit that began on March 6.

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Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama will visit Lisner Auditorium next month as part of a two-day summit on preventing childhood obesity. Photo courtesy of The White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama will speak in Lisner Auditorium March 8 as part of a childhood obesity prevention summit.

Obama, honorary chair of the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, will keynote the two-day conference and give a talk on combating childhood obesity before more than 1,000 guests.

The summit, from March 6 through March 8, will feature speakers such as the editor of Cooking Light magazine, president of the National Restaurant Association and an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization’s honorary vice chairs Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., and former Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist will also be in attendance.

The first lady has championed healthy living during her time in the White House, launching the ambitious Let’s Move campaign in 2010 and promising to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation.

Obama was also the keynote speaker at the organization’s 2011 conference.

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Friday, Oct. 29, 2010 11:33 a.m.

Mike Bloomberg to be Commencement speaker

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be the University-wide Commencement speaker this May.

Bloomberg, an independent, was named by Forbes magazine the 10th richest person in the United States in 2010. Besides his role as mayor, Bloomberg is noted for his extensive philanthropy. Through the Bloomberg Family Foundation, he donated or pledged almost $700 million to charities before 2007, according to the Chronicle of Education.

He has served as mayor of New York City for the last nine years.

The announcement was made by University President Steven Knapp during the GW Global Forum in New York City Friday.

“Michael Bloomberg has an extraordinary record of achievement as a public servant, philanthropist and business leader,” Knapp said in a statement. “He is also an inspiring speaker, and we are honored that he has accepted our invitation to address the class of 2011.”

Mayor Bloomberg will speak to about 25,000 graduates and guests and receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service on May 15.

“I think that his success in business and politics will really speak to GW students,” Jason Lifton, Student Association President said. “We’re excited to have him here.”

First lady Michelle Obama was the Commencement speaker for the Class of 2010′s ceremony. She stressed public service in her address to graduates. Previous Commencement speakers also include Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010 10:27 a.m.

Book festival to be held on National Mall Saturday

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will serve as honorary chairs of this weekend’s 10th annual National Book Festival.

The free event, sponsored by the Library of Congress, is meant to connect readers with their favorite authors and works of literature and to promote reading – an aspiration of former first lady Laura Bush, the event’s founder.

“We have just a real wealth of world-class talent here,” Jennifer Gavin, senior public affairs specialist at the Library of Congress, said. “We have a Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk, who has sold I believe 70 million books.”

Best-selling author Ken Follett, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout and Top Chef star Spike Mendelsohn – owner of Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill – will also meet fans at the event. Professor Steven Roberts will present and sign his book, “My Fathers’ Houses.”

Book signings, presentations and discussions will take place at designated pavilions throughout the festival.

Last year, more than 120,000 readers flocked to the National Mall for the event.

“The goal of the festival is to promote the joy of reading and literacy in general and to give people exposure to the authors who have created works they love,” Gavin said. “Literacy and reading is the foundation of a good life, really.”

Held this Saturday, the event will run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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First Lady Michelle Obama joined Dr. Jill Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to outline new preventive health care measures made available under the Affordable Care Act at the GW Medical Faculty Associates building Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement – made in front of an audience of doctors, nurses and leaders from the health community – highlighted the preventive health care coverage made available under the  Act, which requires new insurance plans to cover preventative care costs to customers, allowing many more Americans to be able to afford preventive services that help prevent disease and reduce health care costs, according to lawmakers.

Sebelius discussed several measures included in the Act that she said will result in a healthier America, including the $15 billion prevention and public health fund that communities can use to build public parks and gardens as well as deal with chronic diseases.

Biden encouraged women over 40 to get mammogram screenings, saying that if 90 percent of women were to be screened each year, nearly 4,000 lives would be saved. Currently, 67 percent of women get annual mammogram screenings, she said.

“It seems so obvious that focusing on preventive care makes more sense than trying to play catch up with deadly diseases,” she said.

Obama praised the “landmark bill” while highlighting her efforts to decrease child obesity rates. The Act will allow for nutrition counseling, BMI screenings and better prenatal care.

Obama discussed the responsibility of parents in keeping their children healthy.

“Ultimately, each of us needs to be part of the solution on this one. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our own health. Each of us needs to use the tools available to ensure our kids get every possible chance to live happy, healthy lives,” she said.

Doctors from GW Medical Faculty Associates joined the first lady on stage for the announcement. The GW Medical Faculty Associates is comprised of 550 doctors who care for patients in 47 medical specialties. Patients are seen at the main building at GW, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as locations at Howard University and Sibley Memorial, Suburban and INOVA Fairfax Hospitals.

Obama thanked GW for remaining “a trusted neighbor and partner,” while Sebelius praised GW Hospital for its disease prevention efforts and the community outreach that has made more people aware of prevention tools.

“GW Hospital is leading the way with innovative approaches that we hope to implement across the country. We appreciate your work,” Sebelius  said.

The visit was not Obama’s first to GW. In November, the first lady along with Dr. Biden gave remarks at a Veterans Day event in Lisner Auditorium to encourage Americans to help active duty U.S. troops and veterans. Support for veterans and military families has been a key issue for Biden, along with children’s nutrition for Obama.

In May, Mrs. Obama challenged graduates of the class of 2010 to continue their dedication to community service as the keynote speaker for the University-wide Commencement ceremony.

This was Secretary Sebelius’ first visit to the University.

GW was also the chosen location for another policy announcement from the Obama administration. In April, Vice President Joe Biden outlined stricter restrictions for schools to demonstrate Title IX compliance at the Smith Center.

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First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius plan to outline new preventive health care measures at GW Wednesday.

The event – at the Medical Faculty Associates building – is for press pool only but will be webcasted on the White House’s website starting at 2:15 p.m.

The announcement will center on coverage made available under the Affordable Care Act which was signed into law in March. Affordable health care was a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s campaign and Mrs. Obama has been campaigning to lower obesity rates in the United States during her term as first lady.

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First lady Michelle Obama lauded the GW community's commitment to community service Sunday at the University-wide Commencement ceremony on the National Mall. Michelle Rattinger/Photo Editor

Against a picturesque backdrop on the National Mall, in front of 5,000 graduates and their families, first lady Michelle Obama challenged the graduating class to “keep going” with their dedication to community service Sunday morning at the University-wide Commencement ceremony.

Obama – who received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from the University – lauded the GW community for far surpassing the service challenge she issued back in September.

Obama said if the GW community logged 100,000 hours of community service, she would speak at Commencement. Yet GW students, faculty and staff far exceeded that number, logging an astounding 163,980 hours of community service.

Despite completing her challenge, Obama said she had one more request of the graduating class.

“I have one more request to make of you, one more challenge, and that is:  Keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging,” Obama said.

Obama’s speech was GW focused, offering stories about the service projects GW students, faculty and staff partook in over the year. She spoke about the accomplishments of the GW community, saying she is proud of what the University accomplished after she issued her challenge.

The first lady also stressed the need for graduates to think globally with their service initiatives, adding that GW students already serve the global community through their participation in the Peace Corps, studying abroad and doing service projects across the world.

“I’m asking your generation to be America’s face to the world,” Obama told the crowd of nearly 25,000. “It will make the world safer, it will make America stronger, and it will make you more competitive.”

Obama said that by volunteering or studying abroad, America’s message of freedom and of the importance of community service will spread, helping forge a peaceful global community.

“Because many of you already serve around the world, this class knows firsthand that each one of those interactions in the world has the power to start a chain reaction,” Obama said. “Every child that learns to read can teach another. Every girl taught that she has power inspires dozens of others. Every school built improves thousands of lives. And just as that makes the world safer, it also makes America stronger.”

She added, “In the end, the simple act of opening your mind and engaging abroad – whether it’s in the heart of campus or in the most remote villages – can change your definition of what’s possible.”

Obama was not the only speaker at the two-hour-long ceremony.

Graduating senior Zoe Petkanas addressed her fellow students as the student speaker at the event. She spoke about her experience freshman year watching a presidential motorcade drive by on her way to class. It isexperiences like that, Petkanas said, that make the GW experience “anything but typical.”

She urged her classmates to “find their passion” and said despite the tough economic times and the daunting “real world” that is upon them, she knows the class of 2010 will succeed.

“When you look around, you see people who so badly want to do good,” Petkanas said. “Honestly I can’t think of any group of people more suited, more qualified, to tackle the world’s problems than this year’s graduating class…take these motivations, find your passion, be bold and do good, I can’t wait to see what we accomplish.”

GW alumnus Dave Brubeck ­– an award-winning pianist and composer – received a Doctor of Music, honoris causa.

Upon receiving his honorary degree, Brubeck told students to help spread freedom throughout the world and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

A. James Clark, a trustee emeritus and construction entrepreneur, received a Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

Students on the mall said the increased security – graduates had to pass through metal detectors before taking their seats – went smoothly. Almost every student interviewed said the security lines moved quickly, faster than they had thought they would.

Graduating student Ian Watt said getting through security was easy.

“I thought there would be more people,” said Watt, who arrived at the National Mall at 7 a.m.

“I thought security would have been tighter,” said senior Matthew Karim, adding that he enjoyed Obama’s speech.

“She’s a distinguished figure but she’s also a real person,” Karim added.

Elena Lumby arrived to the National Mall at 8 a.m. and said getting through the security line was a breeze.

“It was much more organized than the inauguration,” Lumby said, adding that she enjoyed Obama’s speech.

“It’s nice to hear that things are difficult but to get the acknowledgement that we are going out and going great things despite the current climate,” Lumby said. “It’s uplifting. It’s leaving on a high note.”

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Graduates attending University-wide Commencement will face heightened security measures this year, a University spokeswoman said Thursday.

Increased security measures due to first lady Michelle Obama’s presence will require students to arrive earlier than past years and show photo identification in order to enter the cordoned off seating area, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

Students must arrive to the mall at 7:30 a.m. in order to go through metal detectors, earlier than the 8:15 a.m. arrival time last year, Sherrard said.

Sherrard added that students will receive a personalized e-mail which they must print out and bring to the May 16 ceremony on the National Mall in order to gain entrance.

“They will be required to show a printed copy of the e-mail they receive and their GWorld card and/or a government-issued photo identification such as a drivers license or passport,” Sherrard said in an e-mail.

Graduates will be required to go through metal detectors when they check in, a measure that was not in place last year when the ceremony occurred on the National Mall. Last year’s Commencement speaker was Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Sherrard confirmed that agencies like the National Park Service, Metropolitan Police, the Secret Service and University Police will be coordinating security.

Once graduates check in, seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis, Sherrard said.

“The earlier graduates arrive, the better their chances of sitting close to the stage and with their school,” Sherrard said.

While cameras are permitted, graduates will be asked to not bring large bags or backpacks, and guests of graduates will be advised to hold on to their tickets while they are on the National Mall.

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