First lady pays Christmastime visit to children's hospital

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michelle Obama says skiing does for her what golf does for President Barack Obama.

Appearing at a children's hospital Monday and answering some patients' questions, Mrs. Obama said her favorite winter activity is skiing because it helps gets her out of a White House that is "basically hermetically sealed" and into the fresh air.

She said she understands why her husband plays golf whenever he can. "It's one of the few opportunities he has to be outside, walking around like a normal person for long periods of time," Mrs. Obama said.

"Skiing does that for me in the winter," she said during her annual Christmastime appearance at Children's National Health System. "And it's great exercise. And it's fun. And it's a little scary, too. All at the same time."

Obama plays golf most weekends in Washington. He also plays regularly during the family's summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and during their Christmas vacation in his native Hawaii. Mrs. Obama is known to have enjoyed skiing Colorado's slopes.

"It just gets messy and complicated" when she and the president venture out in public, she said. "But when I'm skiing, that's, like, one of the few places in the winter where I feel free. Because nobody can take a selfie with you when you're skiing down a mountain," Mrs. Obama said.

It was her final Christmastime event at the hospital as first lady, continuing a tradition that dates to the 1940s, when Bess Truman began stopping by to cheer up the children who were too sick to be home for the holidays.

Joined by radio and television host Ryan Seacrest, Mrs. Obama said visiting for the past eight years had been "an honor."

The first lady and Seacrest toured the hospital's heart and kidney unit before coming to the atrium to sit in front of a large Christmas tree and read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to a group of children seated on the floor in front of them.

She also let the kids pet Bo and Sunny, the family dogs who accompanied her to the hospital.

"They're probably the most popular living creatures in the White House," Mrs. Obama said.

After the appearance, the first lady answered several more questions during a brief round-table interview that Seacrest hosted with patients from the hospital's LGBTQ clinic. The program was broadcast to patients throughout the hospital.

Perhaps foreshadowing a future relationship, Dr. Kurt Newman, president and CEO of Children's National, said he looked forward to having Mrs. Obama back at the hospital. He noted she was an executive at a Chicago hospital before she became first lady.

"I can always put her to work," Newman said.


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