The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at Blues Music Clinic
State Dining Room
2:41 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) You guys, rest yourselves. Welcome to the White House. (Laughter.) What do you think? (Applause.) Do you like our house?
MRS. OBAMA: It's the State Dining Room; there's state dining that goes on here. But now it's for you. We're so excited today as we kick off this latest edition of the White House music series. In the past three years, we have highlighted country, we've done a little Motown, we've done a little classical, we've done jazz, and today, we’ve got the blues. (Applause.) Yes. But in a very good way we've got the blues. (Laughter.)
You see, the blues are as deeply American -- and as deeply human -- as just about any form of music that we’ve got in this country. This music wraps all of our emotions -- whether it's love and loss, joy and sorrow, heartbreak and celebration -- it wraps it all into an art form that stirs our souls and it helps us rise above all our struggles.
And that’s why this music series is so deeply rooted in the American experience. That’s why it has traveled from the Deep South into every part of the country and just about every form of music that we hear today.
And that’s why, as we celebrate African American History Month, I am proud to have all these folks on stage with me. It's a good thing. So let me introduce a couple of them: Bob Santelli, who has just been amazing -- Bob helps us with everything we do here in our music series. He's always right there. He's from the Grammy Museum. He is always participating in these clinics. He is just phenomenal, and he knows his stuff. He is here with us -- Bob. (Applause.)
We've got Keb Mo, we've got Shemekia Copeland, and we have Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with us. (Applause.)
And finally, I just want to take a minute to recognize all of you here today, because you all are really the reason that we’re here today. And I understand that you're coming from all over the country -- we've got Mississippi here, we've got a little California, a little Tennessee, a little Missouri, right?
MRS. OBAMA: A few others -- did I miss somebody?
MRS. OBAMA: Washington -- oh, Washington, D.C.?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, state.
MRS. OBAMA: Washington state.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Philly.
MRS. OBAMA: Philly? A little Philly here, see? A little everybody -- everybody, just represent. What, Jersey? And a little Jersey. That's good, that's good.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Illinois.
MRS. OBAMA: Illinois! What part of Illinois?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: St. Louis area.
MRS. OBAMA: St. Louis area. Well, see, you all are from all over the place. And this is a good thing. You are, from what I understand, some of the brightest young musical talent -- is this true? -- (laughter) -- at your schools and in our country. Is that true? We've got some of the brightest, some of the -- yes. Said, "Yes, I am!" (Laughter.) What do you play?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Clarinet.
MRS. OBAMA: Clarinet. What else we got? Who else --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Saxophone.
MRS. OBAMA: Saxophone -- (laughter) -- some of the best. What's this, vocals? Is that what you're saying? (Laughter.)
Well, we've invited you here at the White House because we want you to know that you all have a place here -- a place here at the White House. Yes, here. This is your spot. We want this house to truly be the people’s house. That's something that we say -- people say, this is the people's house. We just happen to occupy upstairs, but this belongs to everybody. And in opening up the doors to this house, we also want to open up a world of possibilities for young people like you.
See, since its very beginning, our country has been built by young people like all of you. Maybe folks that maybe didn't start out with much, but they worked hard, they followed their hearts, and they did whatever they could to make this country stronger, and whether that was in government or business, science or the arts.
If you take these folks sitting up here, they represent that. Before he was a three-time Grammy winner, Keb Mo was simply Kevin Moore. (Laughter.) Keb Mo was just little Kevin -- (laughter) -- the kid down the block in South Central L.A. Little Kevin. And then Troy was a little boy marching through the streets of New Orleans with a trombone twice his size. (Laughter.)
MR. ANDREWS: (Inaudible.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, I can see that. (Laughter.) No offense. (Laughter.) And as a young woman growing up in Harlem, Shemekia struggled -- stage fright. Is that true?
MS. COPELAND: Yes, ma'am.
MRS. OBAMA: She's not shy now. (Laughter.) And one time, she was actually afraid to be up on stage performing at all -- you were afraid. You're over that now, right?
MS. COPELAND: Yeah.
MRS. OBAMA: All right. But today --
MS. COPELAND: Nervous now.
MRS. OBAMA: Little nervous, little nervous. (Laughter.) Well, we're in the White House, you've got every right to be a little nervous.
But today she, Keb, Troy, they're all up here, at the White House, right?
And I mean, just thinking a little -- they were like you all, right? Did you ever think you'd be sitting up here in the White House?
MS. COPELAND: No way. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Invited by the President of the United States himself? (Laughter.) See, that is the beauty of America, right? You can go from there to here in a split second -- just a little focus, right?
And I should mention that the President didn't start out at the top either. Neither did I, but let's talk about him for a little bit since he's not here. (Laughter.) As many people know, he was raised by his grandparents and by his mom, who was a single mom. And she struggled, just like many parents do, to pay the bills. But he had to work hard, and get a little focused -- and he wasn’t focused all the time. It was later in life that he got a little focus, right? So even if you mess up a little bit, you can get right on track.
So I say all this, it's because I want you all to believe that anything is possible for you all. That's one of the reasons we do this music series. That's why it is so important for me to open up these doors, to have you guys come from all over the country to sit in the same chairs that kings and queens and ambassadors and senators have sat in, right? They sit right in those chairs. And I want you all to hear from people who have struggled, who have worked, who built up careers and art forms for themselves.
Because the point is: You can be here, too. This house belongs to you. These opportunities belong to you. You never rule yourself, right? You never sell yourself short. You stay focused on your craft. And all of you have been given a talent, a blessing. God, I would love it if I could sing or play something -- but I can't. It's okay. (Laughter.)
But you can. So I want you to use this opportunity, as you sit here, to ask these wonderful men and women some good questions; find out what they've done to stay on track; learn about the art form. Don't waste this time. Don't be shy -- although I don't think there are too many shy people here. (Laughter.) But ask some good questions. And remember that you're grooming to be the next greatest something, right? But it starts with believing that you can be there. And half of it is walking in these doors at the White House and sitting down here, and just being here, right? Just get comfortable here, right? Get comfortable with a little greatness. (Laughter.) See how it feels. Put it on. Wear it a little bit, right? Feels pretty good.
But it requires a lot of hard work. That is the constant theme I think you will hear. Here you will hear from the President, you will hear from me -- anybody who has experienced any level of success, there's a lot of hard work that comes with it. So don't be afraid of hard work. Don't be afraid to fail a little bit. Don't be afraid to trip, stumble, make a fool out of yourself sometimes. Sometimes that's the best way to get to your goal, all right?
So I am thrilled to have you all here. Have fun. And I have to go to some meetings, okay? (Laughter.)
So with that I will turn it over to Bob. You all have fun. (Applause.)
2:50 P.M. EST