Public Papers

Remarks on National Physical Fitness and Sports Month


Bright and early. Thank you all very much. Please be seated. We want to see all of you go one-on-one with Arnold here in a minute. [Laughter]

But we're out here for a very special reason this early. No one wanted to tell Mr. Schwarzenegger it was too early, so here we are. [Laughter] I want to salute our Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, who's leading us on a new crusade for educational excellence. And in my view, that includes education of the mind and also a fit body. And I see General Colin Powell here, and I think of the fitness of those who serve under him. And believe me, there's a good example for our whole country in that. Those young people performed superbly abroad, and they were fit, and they were kept fit. So, Colin, thank you sir.

So, what we're doing today is to kick off the National Fitness and Sports Month with the Great American Workout. And here to lead us is our chairman, the Chairman of the President's Counsel on Fitness, Arnold Schwarzenegger. A while back Arnold was up at Camp David with us, with Barbara and me. And we play a great game up there called wallyball -- it's volleyball inside of a racquetball court, marvelous exercise. And our granddaughter's 6-year-old friend Abigail looked through that little window you know they have on the racquetball court and ran into the gymnasium where the Marines were all working out up there. And she said, ``Guess who's in there. Kindergarten cop. He's wearing flowered shorts. It's weird.'' [Laughter] You remember that, Maria.

Well, Arnold's doing a great job. He's already been -- get this now -- on his own out there because he believes -- to 24 States, and his steps are leading the way for fitness.

Let me welcome the many other celebrities and guests with us, especially the team I just greeted, Northern Michigan University's hockey team, NCAA champs. And I understand that eight members of this team were named to their All American All Academic team, proving you can excel in the classroom as well as on the ice. These young men do serve as a wonderful example to us all.

And as you know, our administration has proposed this bold new education strategy which we call America 2000 -- our Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, leading the way. What it does, it challenges our young people to excel in English, history, math, science, and geography. But it also encourages Americans to develop habits that lead to fuller and richer lives, to make learning a process that never ends.

And so, we're here this morning because we want to emphasize another important habit. And I'm not just talking about getting up early. We want to emphasize the importance of healthy bodies, bodies free from drugs, bodies charged with the vigor that exercise brings. No matter how old you are or what kind of shape you're in, exercise helps every one of us live longer, healthier, more enjoyable lives. And for many of us fitness is already a part of our daily routine. But too many people still look at exercise optional. And one in four adults don't exercise -- one in four don't exercise at all. For the sake of our nation's health, that simply has to change.

And exercise is important for every American. But the focus this year is on youth fitness. And if we want our children to grow up strong and healthy, we've got work to do. Right now, only one State requires daily phys ed from the kindergarten through 12th. And across the country only one in three students of all ages take gym every day. If we care about our kids' future, we'll make room for fitness.

We start by teaching our kids that phys ed is just like any other class -- to get ahead you've got to do homework. And the good news is, is that fitness is fun. So on the weekends, after school stay away from the junk food, get up off that couch, unplug the Nintendo and turn off the TV, and go out and get some exercise. And that's what we're about to do, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, right here this morning. [Laughter]

Before we begin, let me recognize one girl who symbolizes the 10 million American children who are on the right track to good health. The 10 millionth recipient of the President's Physical Fitness Award, Andrea Stafford. You won't believe this one, but it's the truth. Andrea is from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Where is Andrea? Right there. You come up here, Andrea. Andrea will now take on Pam Shriver in tennis. She told me that's her favorite sport. [Laughter]

But listen, it is my pleasure to declare the month of May National Fitness and Sports Month. And now, without further delay, the czar here and I will attack these workout stations. Thank you all very much for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 7:22 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and his wife, Maria Shriver; Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander; Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; student Andrea Stafford; and Pam Shriver, a professional tennis player.