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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards Ceremony

11:16 A.M. EDT
      MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please have a seat.  Hello and welcome to the White House.  Exciting!  (Laughter.)  You can be excited, yes!  (Applause.)  I know when young people come, it’s always like, can I clap, can I laugh, can I -- (laughter) -- yes!  (Laughter.)  Yes, you can, you can breathe.  (Laughter.)
      It is such a pleasure to be here today to celebrate the winners of this year’s National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. 
      I want to start by thanking all the Members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities who are here with us today, especially our co-chairs, Margo Lion and George Stevens, who accompanied me in.
      And finally, I want to thank all the teachers, all the administrators, the directors, the artists who keep these programs going and who keep them running each and every day.  We’re just very grateful to everything that you all have been doing, because I know that these are tough times for a lot of folks.  Budgets are being squeezed.  Resources are being cut.  And for many of you, the hours are longer and unfortunately the paychecks are smaller than they used to be. 
      But against all the odds, you’ve kept going.  You’ve kept teaching and mentoring and innovating because you know, like all of us know, that these programs, programs like yours, can help our young people expand their imaginations and tap into their creativity. 
      You’ve seen how the arts and humanities can broaden their horizons and help them discover a talent or a mission or a sense of purpose that they never knew they had.
      And that’s exactly what’s happening in Hartford, Connecticut, where students are doing workshops with world-class jazz musicians and artists. 
      In Tampa, middle school girls are creating original shows based on their own stories and performing them in front of their friends and family.
      In San Francisco, students are developing their own voices alongside professional writers. 
      And right here in Washington, D.C., kids from low-income neighborhoods are using debate and hands-on activities to learn about some of the history’s great leaders.
      These are experiences that will stick with our young people for the rest of their lives. 
      But the real beauty is that you’re doing more than just teaching these young people how to become better artists or better musicians.  You’re also connecting them with mentors and college counselors.  You’re helping them become better people.  And you’re giving them skills that will help make their futures that much brighter. 
      When a student writes a play, she’s not just learning how to put lines on a page.  She’s boosting her language skills, becoming a better public speaker, gaining a sense of pride in her ability to set a goal and to reach it.  When students are paired up with mentors, it’s about more than just keeping their grades up or strengthening their college applications. 
      It’s about connecting them with someone who’s been where they’ve been, who’s willing to take a genuine interest in their future, and who can show them what it takes to succeed in the studio, in the classroom, and in life.  And when a group of young people comes together to put on a show or create a piece of artwork, it’s not just about getting recognition for the work they’ve created. It’s about learning what it means to share a gift with others, and give back to the people who’ve made a difference in their own lives.
      And that’s why, earlier this year, I was so proud to join some of last year’s recipients of this award to help paint a mural and plant a garden at a community center right here in D.C. 
      And I know that many of you are also reaching out in that same way, donating artwork, tutoring in public schools, and holding concerts for your neighborhoods.
      Community MusicWorks in Providence, Rhode Island, even pipes the sound from their rehearsals and string quartet performances out onto the sidewalk, filling the streets with classical music as kids walk to school each day.
      In the end, that’s really what all this work is about.  It is about helping our young people grow and inspiring them to give back.  It’s about taking an interest in them, and challenging them to dream a little bigger and reach a little higher.
      That’s what Roseanne Kadis did, along with Juliet Myers.  She co-founded FACT after-school programs in New Mexico to introduce children and teens to the power of art. When FACT first started, it was run out of the back of a station wagon.  But that didn’t matter.  As Roseanne said, “It wasn’t” -- these are her words -- “it wasn’t just about the result, making art.  It was, ‘Did it bring you joy?  Did you learn something?  Did you master a skill?’
      And together, they’re bringing so much joy to so many.  You’re showing our students that each of them has something valuable to contribute to this life.  And you’re opening their eyes to a world of possibility that awaits them –- one work of art, one relationship, one lifetime at a time.
      So thank you for everything that you are all doing.  We are just incredibly proud, incredibly honored to have you all here.  And I promise we will do our part, everything we can do, on the President’s committee, to support the work that you are doing and continue to make sure that this can happen all the time everywhere all over the country.  We’re very proud of you all.
      And with that, I’d like to introduce to you the co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, my dear friend and partner in crime in many ways, Margo Lion.  Come on up, Margo, and thank you.  (Applause.)
                   END                            11:22 A.M. EDT