The brief ride across Lafayette Park was the 12th time Mrs. Obama has traveled to meet with federal workers at cabinet level departments, according to press secretary Katie McCormick Lelyveld. There are 15 executive departments.
“One of the reasons why I do this is because so often federal employees feel under-appreciated. You often get a lot of the blame but sometimes none of the thanks. And my simple job is to say thank you because the job that you do is a big one,” Mrs. Obama said. She spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 125 or so at a conference center on the second floor of the VA building. Earlier she met with 300 VA workers in an overflow location.
A trip postponed
In introducing the First lady, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki mentioned that an earlier scheduled visit by Mrs. Obama was postponed so the President himself could call on the VA’s workers in March. “A few of you were mildly disappointed when the president came. I know that because some of you mentioned that,” said Secretary Shinseki, a retired Army Chief of Staff.
Mrs. Obama was interrupted by repeated laughter as she said, “I was supposed to come earlier and my husband bumped me, which happens all the time, but I was determined, so I am here today – would have been here months ago, but I am happy to be here and I’m happy to be working along side all of you on behalf of our veterans. It is a thrill.”
A career beginning in 1962
In remarks that were simulcast to VA employees around the country, Mrs. Obama said, “We are grateful to all of you for young long service.” She spoke while standing in front of eight long-time Veterans Affairs employees, the longest serving of whom, Patricia Covington, began working at the VA in 1962.
Mrs. Obama said she had been “deeply moved by the character and commitment of the federal employees that I've come in contact with, people who devote their lives to serving this country, often for a lot less financial stability and emotional rest than you would like. But your work is vital. It really is. And it's worthy of the passion that you show.”
After talking for about 11 minutes, Mrs. Obama began working the rope line, shaking hands and posing for pictures with VA employees. A worker standing near the roped off area for the press said, “I love her shoes.” Mrs. Obama was dressed in black sweater, white blouse, black and white skirt, and robin’s egg colored shoes.