Michelle Obama's remarks to Department of Transportation Staff

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Remarks to Department of Transportation  (2009) 
by Michelle Obama
20 February 2009.

Okay, you all are fired up in here. (Applause.) Is it because you work in this beautiful new building? It is a gorgeous facility. I am just honored to be here. (Applause.)

First, let me thank your Secretary, Secretary LaHood, for that kind introduction. I also want to thank Vice Admiral Thomas Barrett, the Deputy Secretary, for joining us today. (Applause.)

As you all know, Secretary LaHood came into the administration after serving in the House of Representatives in my state, Illinois, for 14 years, representing the folks in that state. So Barack and I can't be more pleased that he's taken on the task here at the Department of Transportation to work to get that money for the economic recovery plan out there, doing good things in the communities.

As you have heard, I have taken on what I think is the fun task of coming to every department in Washington -- (applause) -- because I want to meet my new neighbors -- (applause) -- learn more about the community, get to know our co-workers, every one who's going to be standing side by side with us over this wonderful journey that we're on. (Applause.)

But it's important as a reminder to let people know that the nation's business is carried out by all of you, dedicated public servants like the folks standing behind me, all of you here, who have devoted their careers, who have been doing this work for decades. So my job is simple: I'm here to say thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

There isn't a day that goes by that the work of the Department of Transportation doesn't touch the lives of every single person in America. You all know that. Sometimes people forget. We get to work, we drive our children to school, and to basketball, or to ballet, or to soccer, in my instance, because of the roads and the highways that are entrusted to your care.

We rely on the airlines, the trains, the buses, that are under your supervision, to reach loved ones and to conduct business in distant places all over this country, because of your work. We can buy the products that make life comfortable, and conduct the commerce that's the engine of our economy, because of the highways and waterways, and railways that you oversee. Every day you carry out the business of keeping America moving. Right? (Applause.)

And now that President Obama has signed the economic recovery plan into law, you will also help carry out the business of getting our economy moving again, as well. That's an important job.

The economic recovery plan is making the largest investment in our nation's infrastructure since the interstate highways were created in the 1950s. It's time. It will repair and rebuild highways, expand access to public transportation, which we all need -- (applause) -- invest in high speed rail, which we all need -- (applause) -- and improve our nation's airports. (Applause.)

Throughout our history, from early railway workers, who laid the first tracks, to the sleeping car porters whose unions became an organized trailblazer in civil rights -- my uncles were Pullman porters -- to the men and women today who manage ports, who drive trucks, and repair roads and bridges, our nation's transportation system has been a vital source of well-paying jobs and a backbone of America's middle class.

So that's why your management, the work that you're doing here in transportation to manage the investments in the economic recovery plan, is so very important. There is a lot of work to do.

And we are fortunate to have great leaders like President Obama and Secretary LaHood. (Applause.) We are lucky to have such great leadership at a time such as this. But I say this everywhere I go in every agency I've visited and every agency that I will visit: Our leaders are only as strong as those who hold them up, all of you. So that's why I'm here. (Applause.)

People across the country are counting on you to keep them safe, to help them live their lives, and to put them back to work. We are at the beginning of what will be a long and extraordinary journey. We're going to need each and every one of you. We're going to need one another, not just here in Washington but across the country. And Barack and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the service that you've already committed, for the years that you've worked for administrations, all throughout the history of this fine nation.

I want to thank you for your sacrifice, because many of you who were public servants have been sacrificing every year, sacrificing within your own families, coming to work when it's hard, and working even harder. So just know that we value you, that America values you, and together we can get this country moving again.

So thank you. Thank you so much. And let's get to work.

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