MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much. (Applause.) Rest yourselves. Yes, I agree, it’s too loud! (Laughter.) Well, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Broadway at the White House. (Applause.)
Now, before we begin tonight’s show, I want to take a moment to talk about what happened in Paris. As I said this morning, all of us remain heartbroken and outraged over this horrific act. And our thoughts and prayers are very much with the victims, their families, and all of the people of France.
And as my husband said on Friday, this was an attack not just on France, our dear friend and oldest ally, but on all of humanity and our shared values. So as we mourn, we must continue to shine a light on the strength of those shared values and hopes. That’s what events like this are about.
But before we get started, I’d like to ask that we pause for a moment of silence.
(A moment of silence is observed.)
I am so thrilled to welcome so many living legends of Broadway here to the White House. We have our hosts for this event, Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison. We’ve got Gloria Estefan, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cicely Tyson, Stephen Schwartz -- the list goes on and on. And they’re joining us here today for one of our favorite White House traditions.
You see, while our family might live upstairs, the President and I know that the White House is truly the People’s House. It belongs to all of us, and it should reflect and celebrate the very best in us. So over the years, we’ve hosted all kinds of performances to highlight our nation’s talent and honor our cultural heritage, from gospel to Motown to country. And tonight, we’re celebrating another cornerstone of our culture by taking a trip to Broadway. (Applause.)
For over a hundred years, Broadway has been bringing us together to make us laugh, to make us cry, to make us think, and, most of all, to tell our stories. And since America is such a big, bold, beautiful nation, that’s how our stories are told on Broadway –- with show-stopping dance routines, and soaring musical numbers, and heart-wrenching, side-splitting performances that we never forget.
And these shows don’t just entertain us, they educate and inspire us. That’s what Kristin Chenoweth did when she reminded us not to judge a book by its cover in “Wicked”. It’s what Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra are doing in Gloria Estefan’s “On Your Feet,” showing us the power of the American Dream. It’s what Bobbi MacKenzie is doing in “School of Rock,” helping us understand how music can change a young person’s life.
And that mix of extraordinary talent and powerful stories draws people from all over the country and all over the world. In fact, last year alone, more than 13 million people attended a Broadway show. And Broadway is returning the favor by sharing the magic of theater with students across the nation through discounted student tickets, and through the Kids Night on Broadway program, and through a partnership that will bring over 20,000 New York City high school students to see a show.
And today, we are thrilled to welcome 40 talented young people from high school arts and after-school programs across this country. Earlier this afternoon, some of the Broadway stars who are here today met with these students to host workshops and answer their questions. And as a special treat, some of these young people are even going to perform for us today.
And that’s really what today is all about -– it’s about inspiring our next generation. It’s about sharing America’s proud cultural legacy with people from all walks of life across this country. I think Lorraine Hansberry, the first African American woman to write a Broadway show, put it best when she spoke to a group of young artists and told them, simply: “This nation needs your gifts.”
And I want to close today by thanking our guests for sharing their gifts and inspiring our young people. Most of us aren’t able to make it to Broadway, but today, these extraordinary artists are bringing Broadway to us. I am so grateful to all of them for joining us here today.
And it is now my pleasure to turn things over to our wonderful hosts to get us started. So please join me in welcoming two incredible and talented performers, Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison. (Applause.)