First lady Michelle Obama and Margarita Zavala, the wife of President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, were visiting a Washington-area elementary school Wednesday when they heard unexpectedly from a little girl worried that some people -- maybe, just maybe even the youth's mother -- could face deportation one day. It was an extraordinary moment.
The child told Mrs. Obama, "My mom said -- my mom said that -- I think that she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers."
Replied Mrs. Obama, "Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That's exactly right."
The girl then said, "But my mom doesn't have . . ." and the word she seemed to say was papers.
Mrs. Obama said: "Yeah, well, we have to work on that. We have to fix that, and everybody has got to work together in Congress to make sure that that happens. That's right."
The exchange came as the two women's husbands, President Obama and Calderon, grappled with the issue of illegal immigration in the United States, with the already divisive issue turning red hot with the passage of a new law in Arizona allowing the police to ask people to show papers proving they are in the United States legally.
Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala saw each other last month in Mexico City and reunited on Wednesday when Mexico's first couple arrived for a state visit.
The serious turn from the youngster came in the midst of an event intended to emphasize healthy eating and exercise, causes for both Mrs. Zavala and Mrs. Obama, with reducing childhood obesity Mrs. Obama's signature issue.
After the White House arrival ceremony on the South Lawn -- the first outdoor arrival ceremony of the Obama administration, complete with a 21-gun salute and both presidents reviewing U.S. troops -- Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala motorcaded to the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.
The women entered a gym filled with 14 second-graders and a banner on one wall that said, "Welcome, Mrs. Obama! Bienvenidos, Sra. Zavala!" The women played games with the children. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala skipped, hopped and ran around a bit with a gym teacher guiding the play. At one point everyone formed a circle and grabbed hold of an end of a big, colorful parachute filled with balls. When they "made waves," the balls tumbled out. The activity was a way for the gym teacher to talk about teamwork and the heart, veins and arteries.
Mrs. Obama was wearing a Calvin Klein raspberry dress; over her dress, Mrs. Zavala had on a blue raincoat, which she removed when all the activity began.
After about 25 minutes, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala drew the children into a circle while the adults sat on folding chairs. When the children looked at the cameras and reporters standing along a gym wall, Mrs. Obama noticed and explained, "They follow us around."
Speaking first, Mrs. Obama told the children, "You are so blessed to be in a school like this that's focusing and giving you this kind of information, and making it fun, right? Because what you see is that exercise and play -- that's all exercise is, it's a bunch of play. It's just games. But you get your heart moving, and you've got to do that."
As often happens when Mrs. Obama is with children, they wanted to know about her daughters, Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8.
When Mrs. Obama was told by a student about playing Wii, Mrs. Obama knew the product.
"The Wii Fit? Yep, Malia and Sasha have that, too," she said. After the chat turned to riding bikes, Mrs. Obama was asked if her daughters exercise.
"They do. They do it at school like you do, and they do it at home," and they ride bikes too. Asked if she exercised, she said "every single day," unless she was really busy. And what about Mr. Obama?
"He exercises every morning, every single morning."
After the gym, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Zavala went to the cafeteria, where the children were eating a healthy lunch, family style.
The children sang a song before eating:
I watch my table manners,
I sit up nice and straight,
I say please and thank you and please put more on my plate,
I do not talk while chewing,
I do not play with food,
We enjoy lunch together, because our manners are so good!
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