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A Letter to the First Lady

By Eric Herman

Eric Herman WaterShapesI was chatting recently with my longtime friend Laurie Batter, president of Batter Up! Productions in Carlsbad, Calif. Among other things, her media relations firm takes care of public relations for the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

We were discussing ways to promote the health benefits of swimming and other aquatic activities, when Laurie mentioned the Let’s Move initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama, which fosters physical fitness among children. While we agreed it’s a great cause and a wonderful program, Laurie pointed out that the initiative apparently does not promote swimming.

This surprised me given what I know about how useful swimming can be in a healthy lifestyle. So I had to see for myself—and unless I’ve missed something somewhere, swimming indeed is nowhere to be found in the program.

I thought about writing a letter or sending an e-mail to the White House to question the omission, but it occurred to me that it would be better if a whole bunch of people reached out to the First Lady and her staff to suggest that swimming be included in the campaign.

If you agree that swimming should be part of any thorough child-fitness regimen and that such a message would enhance the Let’s Move program, please consider sending the following note to the White House:

Dear Mrs. Obama,

I’m writing you today in reference to your Let’s Move initiative.

First, I want to congratulate you on taking a leadership role in the fight against childhood obesity. It’s an important cause, one that needs to be addressed through improved diet and more active lifestyles. I am foursquare in favor of this program.

However, I’d like to share a concern: Nowhere in descriptions of the program do I see any mention of swimming as an activity that can contribute to greater physical fitness and health for our youth.

As an aquatics professional, I am keenly aware of the unique health benefits of swimming for people of all ages and levels of fitness. I believe your program could be made even better if it included information about swimming.

Of course, one area of concern is safety. You may be aware that child drowning is the number two cause of death for children under four years of age, and that a disproportionate number of drowning and near-drowning incidents occur among minority groups.

The aquatics industry has long advocated early swimming education. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends four as a good age to begin swimming lessons. There’s broad agreement that even acquiring basic swimming skills reduces drowning risks.


Swimming also offers young people a wonderful venue for achievement in a positive learning environment centered on regular physical activity. Most communities have public swimming pools available through YMCAs and YWCAs, high schools, universities and municipal facilities, making the availability of swimming programs more widespread than many people realize.

As a citizen who shares your concern for the health of our nation’s children, I ask you to consider making swimming a prominent component of the Let’s Move program. 

                                                [Your name and professional affiliation]

You can e-mail the First Lady directly at www.whitehouse.gov/contact or send the message by regular mail to:

Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

You can also leave a message on the White House comment line: (202) 456-1111.

Eric Herman
is the editor of WaterShapes magazine.

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