Ka’a’awa, Hawaii, November 13, 2011, 11:49 A.M. HAST, MRS. OBAMA: Well, first of all I just want to say welcome and good afternoon. It is such a pleasure to see each of you again today. I hope you enjoyed last night. I hope that you got some rest. And if you still feel a bit tired, then our hope is that this spectacular view will wake you up, as well as this wonderful lunch. I am thrilled to be with all of you today, as I am every time we have an opportunity to meet.
I know traveling for our spouses can be difficult, but for me, one of the things that makes it worthwhile is getting to know each one of you. Over the last several years, I’ve had an opportunity to talk and share stories, and learn more about your lives and your children and your family. And I can say that this is one of the greatest benefits of being a First Lady, is sharing this experience with each and every one of you. So from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for your friendship, and I look forward to spending more time with each of you in the years to come.
I am also thrilled to have a chance to welcome you all here to Hawaii at this year’s APEC Summit. And I have to tell you that this state, as you know, has a very special place in my heart. As many of you know, my husband was born and raised here. Our sister, Maya, is joining us here today, and she still lives here with our two nieces. She’s working with the University of Hawaii, doing some great outreach education, training of teachers, and just being an overall great professional and wonderful mother. And I’m glad that she could be here today.
And our family has the privilege of coming here — the burden of coming back here every year. (Laughter.) And that’s really one of the reasons I married Barack. (Laughter.) When I realized that this is where we’d be spending the holidays, I said, “Yes — I love you!” (Laughter.) So Barack and I, we have a tradition: Over the last 20, maybe — more than 20 years, because we started coming back even before we were engaged; every year we come here for two weeks and spend time getting to know this wonderful island and spending time with our families. So it is a unique privilege to be able to share this special place with all of you. And ever since I first met Barack, he’s always talked about how growing up here, in this place, has shaped his character and his perspective — and it’s true. He is a very calm, focused individual, and much of that comes from his upbringing here, and the connection to the community here as well.
As he said, Hawaii is an incredibly diverse place; it’s home to people of all different cultures. And there’s a special spirit here –- a spirit of openness and tolerance. And I have experienced it myself. I feel like this is my home away from home, a place where I feel welcome and open and optimistic. Folks here view their differences as strengths –- not as weaknesses. And people of all different backgrounds live together and work together and seek to learn from each other.
So in many ways, Hawaii is really the perfect place for this year’s APEC Summit, because that is precisely what our spouses are working towards here during their time together. They’re coming together to address our shared challenges. They are finding ways to boost our economies so that we can all prosper. And they’re working to ensure — most importantly — that our young people will have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams. And I know that all of you and your spouses also share that hope and goal for the young people in our country and in our world.
So we thought that this last point actually brings me to one of the reasons why we came here, and why you’re about to eat the meal that you’re going to have. Because we’re working with young people — they’ve helped us make this afternoon possible. The fresh fruits and vegetables that you’ll be eating today were grown and prepared by some phenomenal young people at a local organic farm under the guidance of a great Hawaiian chef, Chef Ed Kenney.
And I had the pleasure of spending a very cool afternoon with many of these young people yesterday, and I can tell you that they are some amazing, positive people who will have an impact not just on the state of Hawaii, but on the rest of the world. Through the work that they’re doing, they’re not only interning and learning about farming and learning how to reconnect with one of the important cultural aspects of their heritage, but they’re also working, earning a living, gaining an internship — and the program is paying for many of them to finish their education. All of these young people are either getting — going to community colleges in the area, or they’re pursuing their graduate or undergraduate educations at the University of Hawaii and other institutions here. I love these kids. I love this program. And I am just pleased that they decided to come and spend a little more time with us today. So it is now my pleasure to introduce to you Chef Kenney and two of the great students who work with Ma’o Farms -– Manny Miles and Ku’u Samson. You guys ready to talk some more?
MS. SAMSON: Yes. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: They pretend to be shy, but they’re not really. So they’re going to tell you a little bit more about the meal that they’ve prepared for you — for us today, and anything else that you want to share with us. So, Chef Kenney, take it away.