Share this article

print logo

Obama kicks off Egg Roll

In an annual family-friendly rite of spring, President Obama and his wife Michelle kicked off the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, joining tens of thousands of youngsters and their parents in a day of racing, reading, sports and crafts on a sun-splashed South Lawn.

"We are so thrilled all of you could join us," Obama said from the South Portico, flanked by the first lady, their daughters Malia and Sasha and the Easter Bunny.

"It's a beautiful day -- perfect weather," enthused Mrs. Obama. "There's something for everyone I hope you put on your comfortable shoes."

The annual event, first held in 1878 when Rutherford B. Hayes was president, featured traditional egg-rolling races, as well as obstacle courses, book-readings and musical performances. There was even a yoga garden. Officials expected some 30,000 kids and their parents to take part.

After welcoming the throng, the president and his family -- including first grandmother Marian Robinson -- set off to mix and mingle as the Marine Band played Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade."

His first stop was the day's centerpiece event, the egg-rolling race. Obama blew the whistle and joined in the cheers of parents as youngsters scampered across the grass toward a finish line a short distance away. "We've got a winner over here," he shouted as one child finished the course.

Elsewhere, children could take part in sports with the likes of tennis star Michael Chang, NBA standouts Mitch Richmond and Daryll Dawkins and Olympians Michelle Kwan and Dominique Dawes.

On the basketball court, Obama played the game "Shoot for Strength" with a group of kids and the Harlem Globetrotters. The contest involves sinking shots -- and doing pushups. It took Obama eight tries to sink a basket. He then joined in the pushups that are the game's "reward." Obama also managed to fit in a few minutes of tennis with sport legend Chris Evert.

Other celebrity book-readers included actors Forest Whitaker and Julianne Moore. Musical performances came from Janelle Monae, Cody Simpson, Rachel Crow and the characters from "Sesame Street."