WASHINGTON — To mark national take-your-kid-to-work day Thursday, Michelle Obama invited the children of White House employees to join her in the East Room for a Q & A session.
Their questions drew out her thoughts on her two-plus years as America's first lady.
What are the disadvantages, an 11-year-old asked.
"You can't just do anything on the spur of the moment," Obama said. She can't just walk out of the White House and go to a store because it "would create a lot of problems" and "be chaotic," she said.
"Before we lived here, we were normal people," she said, reminiscing about driving her own car and going to Target. "That may sound like minor things, but once you can't do any of that ever again, you start feeling like, 'Well, this is a little strange.' "
Still, she said, that's the trade-off for being able "to do things that can impact the whole country for a long time." She talked about her chief causes, reducing childhood obesity and helping military families.
A 10-year-old asked whether she was surprised when her husband won the 2008 election. Obama said that it was a "shocking thing" because the country had never elected a black president before, and that she also is excited by the prospect of a day when the first woman is elected president.
About 170 grade-school children sat in gilded chairs in the ornate, chandeliered room. Their parents work as Secret Service agents, foreign policy advisers, chefs. Journalists' children were permitted in, too, so long as they stood behind the rope line with their parents in the holding pen for scribes and photographers.
Obama told the children that she knows White House jobs can keep parents away from home too much, and maybe make them miss their children's games, even birthdays. "Don't ever think that they don't care about you," she pleaded.
They tried to pin her down on several fronts: favorite color, favorite football team, favorite book. Like most politicians she tried to hedge, but finally settled on lavender or purple, the Chicago Bears and Toni Morrison's "Song of Solomon."
Her favorite sport to play? Tennis.
Her favorite room at the White House? The Yellow Oval Room in the residential quarters. She said it was next to the Truman Balcony, where she and her husband could sit when the weather was nice and watch Sasha and Malia play with Bo, the dog, on the South Lawn.
An 8-year-old asked whether she gets to spend a lot of time with Bo. Her answer hinted that it was more time than she gets to spend with her husband these days.
"Yeah, I get to spend a lot of time with Bo," she said, emphasizing the dog's name. "Yeah, he's around all the time."
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