First Lady declines visit to MU

Michelle Obama declined an invitation to speak at the Spring Life Sciences Symposium.
Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama will not be coming to Columbia in the near future.

Although she was invited to be the keynote speaker at Food Sense, the annual MU Life Sciences and Society Symposium, she and her staff formally declined.

“Due to time constraints, the First Lady must decline the majority of the invitations she receives,” an email from the Scheduling Department said. “We have reviewed your invitation and, unfortunately, the First Lady will be unable to attend.”

Food Sense had been using Facebook and Twitter to “express interest through a social media campaign,” according to the Food Sense website. Ultimately, the efforts were unsuccessful.

This development was not entirely unexpected, organizers said.

“She receives a very large number of invitations, and her timetable was constrained,” Life Sciences and Society Director Stefani Engelstein said. “They went out of their way to thank the students and colleagues who contacted her as well as the Life Sciences and Society that invited her.”

The Food Sense symposium, which is being held March 16 to 18, will continue without Obama.

“We still have a fantastic program of confirmed speakers, so the symposium with still be an outstanding event,” Engelstein said. “The new keynote speaker will be Brian Wansink of Cornell University.”

Wansink is the author of best-selling “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” among other titles, and works in food laboratories conducting experiments on people in regards to food.

“He’s a really fascinating speaker,” Engelstein said.

Other speakers at the symposium include Shirley Corriher, author of “CookWise and “BakeWise,” Washingtonian Food and Wine Editor Todd Kliman, Hildegarde Heymann and William Ian Miller.

Despite the first lady’s declined invitation, a couple of other notable invitees have yet to respond. They are Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and Judy Baker, the Regional Director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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