On Tuesday, the First Lady led hundreds of school children in a solid minute of jumping jacks on the South Lawn. The event kicked off a 24-hour chase after a Guinness World Record—and served as a reminder of how adorably uncoordinated we all are as young people.
As this reporter arrived, the children, all clad in matching blue T-shirts, were running around the lawn excitedly while “Good Vibrations” played. Perhaps their zeal came from being the jumpers who would start off a string of jumping jacks the world over, as groups coordinated by National Geographic Kids tried to reach their goal of 20,426 people having jumped their jacks before 3 p.m. Wednesday. Perhaps it came from the knowledge that the First Lady would soon be in their midst. Or perhaps it was because it was 2 p.m. on a Tuesday and they weren’t in class.
The event was emceed by none other than Today show anchor Al Roker, who regaled the kids with jokes like “What did the snail say when it rode the turtle? Weeeeeeeeee,” and gave them little knowledge-of-our-world quizzes. (When he asked them who invented the hula hoop, there was a strong contingent voting for “D. Justin Bieber.” But, disappointingly, it turned out to be the Greeks.) Roker congratulated them on contributing to Michelle Obama’s pet cause, the “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity. Today, he said, they were “taking a huge step—or should I say jump?!—toward a healthy lifestyle.” Oh Al, you rascal.
Balloon artist John Cassidy also gave a rousing warm-up performance. “Do you like balloons?” he asked the children. “If not, this is going to be a remarkably long show.” After he got to the point where he stuffed himself inside a giant balloon, I think all gathered could agree that his bit breezed by.
Then came a warm-up with the First Family’s trainer, who totally lost the kids at “jump squats,” and a few more introductions. One rhetorical moment hilariously backfired when a man asked the kids if they liked to just sit at home and do nothing. “Wooooo!” they replied. (He probably should have just opened with his “how great is getting out and doing stuff?!” follow-up.)
Then, finally, came the main event. The children screamed as Michelle Obama arrived. “Woohoo!” she said. “Moving is fun!” Then she ran through a center space that parted the kids and showed them all how jumping jacks are done. After the minute of chaotic limb-flailing came to a close, the children surrounded her. Though her bodyguard looked none too pleased, the First Lady stayed and mingled with the swarming kiddies.
“She touched my hand!” one yelled. “She touched my face!” countered another. “She touched my hand, and I’m never washing it again!” the first retorted. Bless the children, indeed.