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First Lady in Harlem

BY HERB BOYD | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

Except for several minutes behind the microphone extolling the virtues of her "Let's Move" program, First Lady Michelle Obama was a perpetual blur, matching the group of energetic children from P.S. 180 at the PAL facility in Harlem last Thursday. Ms. Obama, dressed in workout garb, even ran an anchor for one of the teams during the obstacle course race. She is as agile on her feet as she is with words.

"Our goal is to make sure kids like you grow up to eat the right nutritious food and get the proper exercise," she told the cheering children. There were some slight groans when she told them they needed to get 60 minutes of exercise each day. A good portion of that daily regimen was expended under Ms. Obama's watch as the children competed in variety of relay races, demonstrating a rare fitness for our generally overweight youngsters.

The First Lady was joined by such dignitaries as former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Majority Whip of the City Council Inez Dickens, Assemblyman Keith Wright, and State Senator Bill Perkins. "Our First Lady is dedicated and quite impressive," said Dickens, whose office is one of the government partners in the $1.2 million Carol M. White Physical Education grant from the US Department of Education that was awarded to the Police Athletic League. "The children were thrilled to see her and meeting her was a memorable experience. In New York City, I have worked very closely with Speaker Quinn to advance citywide Healthy Living, Healthy Eating initiatives particularly as they impact on our young. I am so pleased that we are firmly on the same page." Dickens then echoed one of the First Lady's comments. "Our children are our hope for tomorrow and we must nurture them with great care and concern."

The project, Dickens later explained, is an alliance with her office, the PAL (Police Athletic League), the NYC Department of Health, Healthy Schools/Healthy Families and P.S. 180 to operate at PEP project.

PAL, according to a press statement, will partner with the schools in the District to enter into shared space agreements in which District #3 schools will send students to the PAL facility for lunchtime physical fitness activities. In the first year 225 students will attend lunchtime activities at the PAL Center. The program will also offer after school activities for 225 students, which will include physical fitness, nutrition education and life skills development. This project will give students from Central Harlem opportunities to take part in a variety of activities designed to improve their health, increase their physical fitness and develop lifelong healthy habits.

Obama said that her "Let's Move" program is active across the nation and millions of children are participating in "eating their vegetables, drinking lots of water, and turning of the television." She advised, "Rather than eating potato chips pick up the jump rope."