World and Nation

Criticism aside, Michelle Obama plans new PE project

CHICAGO — Michelle Obama announced the name of the best picture via satellite for the Academy Awards ceremony in order to promote the arts among children, her principal constituency, she said in an interview on Thursday. And if people did not like it, she added, that does not bother her.

“We are going to approach those filmmakers to do things for kids in this country,” she told a small group of reporters during a two-day, three-city trip to promote her anti-obesity campaign for children, including a new initiative to increase physical education in schools. “I want to connect with those people, and then I want to pull them in.”

She chalked up criticism of her Oscar cameo and other recent television appearances to the modern media era and the public’s fascination with her activities. “My bangs set off a national conversation,” she acknowledged.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with me,” she said. “Anyone in this position has a huge spotlight, and in modern-day media the spotlight just gets more intense. I don’t attribute this to me or Barack. The culture has just shifted.”

She elaborated on what being part of the first African-American couple in the White House — and one of the iPhone generation — had meant so far.

“We’re a young couple, we have young kids, we grew up with limited means,” she said. “Our stories are the stories of so many faceless, voiceless people.”

She added, “My life isn’t new, but it’s new to a lot of people who haven’t seen this up close and personal.”

In the interview, held in a conference room at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, the first lady also hinted at a more international second-term agenda.

But she said that whatever work she would do in the second term would probably build on her efforts to help children.

“I am powerfully moved by children,” she said. “I need to have them in my life. They keep me focused, they keep me directed.” She added that “if I do anything internationally I want it to dovetail with the work I do domestically,” making certain that “my time outside of the country is linking back and being real to people here.”

Obama has largely tried to stay out of hot-button issues like gun safety.

“The question becomes who defines what’s contentious and controversial,” she said. “I can’t think along those notions because everyone’s definition of what’s controversial is different.”

She added, “What I don’t want is just to do something to satisfy someone’s idea of what’s controversial.”