Secretary Salazar, Interior Employees Welcome First Lady Michelle Obama

Last edited 09/29/2021

First Lady Michelle Obama thanks Interior Department employees for their outstanding public service. [Photo Credit: Tami Heilemann, DOI-NBC]First Lady Michelle Obama thanks Interior Department employees for their outstanding public service.

[Photo Credit: Tami Heilemann, DOI-NBC] Hi-Res

Joined by some of the department's longest-serving employees on stage, the First Lady and Secretary thanked all employees for their service and reaffirmed President Barack Obama's commitment to investing in conservation to help put people back to work as well as his commitment to respecting sovereign Indian nations.

“At a time when so many Americans are out of work, sound energy and environmental policies are going to create thousands of jobs through the economic recovery and investment plan,” Mrs. Obama told a capacity crowd of employees who had lined up for several hours to see her in the departmental auditorium.

“You are at the center of one of this Administration's highest priorities: securing America's energy future, protecting our natural environment and using the natural resources as responsibly as we can,” she said. “It is not only vital for the survival of our planet as we work to combat climate change but also incredibly important to strengthen our economy and the well being of our families.”

In recognition of Mrs. Obama's accomplishments, she was welcomed by “the Honor Song” sung by Traditional drum singers, the Black Bear Singers, an inter-tribal group representing American Indians who live and work in the Washington, D.C. area.

Employees presented the First Lady with a traditional American Indian woman's shawl with an appliqué horse pattern-- a mark of respect to honor women of high achievements and distinction. Nedra Darling, Director of Public Affairs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, presented the shawl, which was made by Marian Hansson, curator of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Darling is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, while Hansson is a member of the Kiowa Nation.

While thanking employees for the honors, the First Lady reiterated the President's commitment to appoint an American Indian policy advisor on his senior White House staff.

In thanking the First Lady for her visit, Secretary Salazar said that from the time he met Barack and Michelle Obama in 2004, when he and Mr. Obama were both freshmen senators, the couple have exhibited the “calm, coolness, confidence and resolve that really will bring about the change that America and the world need so much.”

Photos are available at /news/photos/2009_02_09_photo.cfm.

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