Anchorage Assemblywoman savors White House embrace

Elvi Gray-Jackson hugs First Lady. Photo:White House
Elvi Gray-Jackson hugs First Lady. Photo:White House

The Municipality of Anchorage was honored at a White House ceremony today, as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, combating childhood obesity. Anchorage was one of 63 communities nationwide that met goals, like posting a healthy food guide at city buildings with food service, and offering school meal programs. But for one Anchorage Assemblywoman, the White House honor was up-close and personal.

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It’s almost like the White House has a crush on Alaska. First, President Barack Obama visits and gushes in social media about what a great time he had. Then, of the dozens of cities honored in the Let’s Move event at the White House, the person organizers chose to introduce the First Lady? Anchorage Assemblywoman and Vice Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson.

“I’m not only honored to be here, but I’m absolutely thrilled,” Gray-Jackson said, in a three minute speech to about 150 attendees. She called Mrs. Obama an inspiration, and a “fierce and relentless advocate” for children.

“It is my great honor and privilege to present to you, First Lady Michelle Obama!” Gray-Jackson said, as Obama walked on stage and gave her a hug.

The first lady thanked Gray-Jackson by name, and then, Mrs. Obama essentially spread some love to the whole 49th state.

“And thank you for hosting my husband. He has talked about his visit endlessly,” she said. She stressed the “endless” part, drawing laughter.  “He says we’re going back, so I hope that me and the girls will come and visit.  I hope so.”

Gray-Jackson was already overjoyed.

“It was so awesome. It was so awesome. I just admire that woman,” the Assemblywoman said.

She said she hated to miss an Anchorage Assembly meeting to travel to the White House, but it was  worth it. She and the First Lady had about 10 minutes together backstage.

“She’s got charisma. She is unique,” Gray-Jackson said. Both women are about six feet tall, and, as it happens, both wore sleeveless ensembles to the event. “I’ve got pretty nice looking arms, too. And we’re both just about the same height. And she looks at me and she says, ‘Look at your arms!’ And we did an arm pose!”

Gray-Jackson says she doesn’t know why she was chosen to give the intro. But she says if the Obamas do take an Alaska vacation, she’s already offered to show them around.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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