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First Lady Pays a Visit To the Education Department

In the first stop of a planned series of visits to federal agencies, first lady Michelle Obama went to the Education Department on Monday to energize workers by announcing: "I am a product of your work."

During a 10-minute speech with the atmosphere of a pep rally, Obama plugged the president's stimulus plan, which would pay to renovate thousands of schools, add funding for preschool for disadvantaged children and increase federal dollars for Pell grants for college students. She said the infusion of cash would prevent teacher layoffs and help children in poverty and those with disabilities.

"This is a good thing to see -- this department fired up and ready to go," Obama said as the crowd of about 350, the maximum allowed under the fire code, cheered and snapped photos with their cellphones.

"The Department of Education is going to be at the forefront of many of the things that we have to do in this administration, and we're going to need that energy in these times of economic challenge," she said.

Michelle Obama also noted the administration's support of innovative approaches such as charter schools and turnaround programs intended to make sweeping changes in long-struggling schools. "There's a lot of work to do, and we're going to need you," she said.

Obama appeared onstage with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, her longtime friend and former chief executive of Chicago schools. The two were joined by 17 career workers with a combined total of about 600 years' experience.

"It's like a rock concert, and I had a front-row seat," said Juliette Rizzo, director of exhibits, event planning and agency-wide outreach. "I loved what she said about being a product of our work."

-- Maria Glod


Obama to Head to Illinois To Honor Abraham Lincoln

President Obama plans to make his first official trip next week, flying to Springfield, Ill., to attend a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.

The commemoration is led by the Abraham Lincoln Association, which will celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth with a banquet in Springfield. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Obama will speak at the event.

It will be Obama's first major trip since becoming president. He is expected to travel to Williamsburg later this week for a meeting of House Democrats.

On Feb. 19, he will make his first international trip, flying to Canada for the day.

-- Michael D. Shear

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