First Lady: ‘Federal Workers Are This Invisible Face, No One Knows What They Do’

By Fred Lucas | April 23, 2013 | 3:02 PM EDT

First lady Michelle Obama (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( – First lady Michelle Obama praised federal employees, casting them as overlooked and juggling more duties with fewer resources in a speech Tuesday at the Interior Department.

“I want you to know how much Barack and I truly appreciate everything that you do, and I know you don’t hear that,” the first lady said. “People don’t even know you exist. It’s so true. I mean, federal workers are this invisible face. No one knows what they do, what it means, how much they benefit us.”

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The first lady spoke to a packed Yates Auditorium at the Department of Interior headquarters in Washington, which seats 600 people as 18 Interior employees stood with her on the stage.

“So on behalf of myself and the president and the first family, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you,” Mrs. Obama said. “I want you to know how proud we are of all that you do. We want you to know how grateful we are to your families, for the sacrifices that you make oftentimes to do what you do.”

She continued, “So hang in there and know that what you do is extremely important. Hang in there. We need you. This country needs you. Our children need you.”

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last year that when averaging pay and benefits concluded, “Overall, the federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector, after accounting for certain observable characteristics of workers.”

Michelle Obama also praised new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and talked about the significance of the department in helping promote the national parks, which she said were key to the family’s vacations.

“I just want to add that one of the neatest things that we get to do is to travel around to the national parks, and we've tried to make it a point as the first family to visit many of the parks when we're on vacation, or when we're driving through the country or a community,” Obama said.