- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - First lady Michelle Obama thanked an enthusiastic crowd of Homeland Security Department employees on Tuesday for their work in keeping the country safe.

Mrs. Obama’s stop at the DHS was her latest in a series of visits to federal agencies to thank employees for their service.

“One of the president’s greatest concerns and priorities is the safety and security of the American people,” she said. “He couldn’t do it without you.”

The first lady told the group she knows much of their work is behind the scenes, and that when they do it well, few outsiders even know what they’ve done. But she wanted DHS workers to know that their efforts are not unappreciated.

“You all stand watch every day over our borders, and our skies, our ports and our transportation systems,” she said. “You dedicate yourselves to preventing, preparing for and responding to our disasters all over this nation.”

The first lady thanked many of the agency’s divisions, including those that provide airport baggage screening, immigration services, border protection and the Coast Guard.

She told department employees that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was a particular concern for her husband, President Barack Obama.

“The president is committed to ensuring that FEMA has the leadership and resources needed to fulfill that very important mission,” Mrs. Obama said. She added that rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region in the wake of devastating hurricanes is part of this priority.

The first lady gave special thanks to the Secret Service for protecting the first family.

“Every day I see how much time they spend away from their own families to keep mine safe,” she said. “They represent the utmost of excellence, and we are so honored to have them serving alongside of us.”

Mrs. Obama has said she wants to learn about the agencies and meet government employees on her listening tour through the federal bureaucracy.

She spoke Tuesday to more than 300 DHS employees from a makeshift stage in a gymnasium on the agency’s campus. Behind her stood about 15 employees from various branches of the department.

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