Remarks by the First Lady at a Country Music Student Workshop
State Dining Room
2:10 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, what’s going on? It’s good to see you guys! Well, hello, and welcome. Pretty cool, huh?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, pretty cool. Well, I can’t stay, because I have to go out to the garden and do a bunch of other stuff. But this is one of my favorite parts of the day, when we have Music Series and inviting you guys all here, so you get a little taste of it.
And today, in the latest edition of the White House Music Series, we are celebrating the great American art of country music. And this is our second time doing country music, and it’s one of our favorite art forms.
And I want to start by just thanking a few people before I turn it over. We have a trio of amazing stars, men who are gorgeous and talented and awesome and giving -- yes, yes. Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker, and of course Kris Kristofferson, who are here with us, and Bob Santelli, who has been just a huge support for these events that we have. He’s from the GRAMMY Museum, and he helps to put all this stuff together, and oftentimes works to get young people here for these series. So I want to thank them for being here.
So in a little bit, you’re going to have an opportunity to hear from them. They’re going to tell you some stories, answer some questions, and sing. (Laughter.) They’re prepared, they’re all ready. But first, I want you guys to get a better sense of why we put on these workshops, because I want you to know why these are important to us and why we’re so excited to have students from Anacostia. Right? We got some Anacostia students! (Applause.) We’ve got teachers firing it up -- firing it up. Woodrow Wilson High School is here! (Applause.) Fired up, fired up. And Newport Middle School! (Applause.) So you’re excited. You’re excited.
Well, we are excited to have you all here. We’ve invited you here because I want to make sure that the White House lives up to the name “The People’s House.” That’s what everybody calls it, what we call it. And I want to be sure that it’s not just a place for senators and diplomats and CEOs who have a chance to come here, but it’s a place for all Americans, especially young people.
And so I want you to all have a chance to come into the State Dining Room and sit in these chairs, just like every head of state comes into this room when we have a State Dinner; this is where they sit, this is where they eat. I want you guys to walk around these halls and look at the artwork, and to imagine the history that has been made here. I want you to see up close just how talented folks like Darius, Lyle and Kris are, and to hear their music, but more importantly, to understand their stories.
But here’s the important part: I don’t want you to come here and simply just sit back in awe. And you guys seem like not a shy bunch, so that’s good, that’s a good start. So don’t be shy. I want you all to realize, as you sit here, that you belong here. That’s one of the reasons we do this. You have to see yourself here in these seats, sitting up here on this stage one day, because Kris, Darius and Lyle might be country music stars today, but they were once just young people like you with their own dreams. Kris grew up in Texas, the son of a military officer. Lyle grew up outside of Houston, and joined a band when he was in the 9th grade, and because he liked playing the guitar so much, he’d ride around and -- you’d take lessons an hour away from where you lived? Is that true? Do I have my facts right?
MR. LOVETT: That’s exactly right.
MRS. OBAMA: So you’d drive for an hour for lessons. And Darius once lived in a house with his mom, two aunts, his grandmother, and 14 kids. (Laughter.) That’s some character building right there. He always wanted to be a singer, so he’d walk around singing songs, using a broomstick as a guitar. So that was your first instrument, the broomstick. (Laughter.)
But as each of them got older, they kept chasing their passion for music, but none of them took a straight road to the top. It wasn’t automatic. It took a little bit. For a while, Lyle tried to be a journalist -- that’s something I didn’t know. Really?
MR. LOVETT: I took it in -- I took journalism in school. But nobody ever hired me. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: That’s probably okay. (Laughter.) But as he put it, “Making up songs,” he thought, “wasn’t a real job.” And I know a lot of people think that -- that the things they really like to do, if you really like it, then obviously you can’t get paid for it. But they always came back to music, each of them, no matter how they diverted their careers. They started playing in small clubs, then the clubs got bigger, and they kept working and working. And now, years later, they’re able to do what they love every single day.
And that is really my biggest hope for all of you, is that as you sit here and you listen to these fine gentlemen, that you figure out how you can turn something that you love into one of those real jobs, right? I mean, think about the things that really drive you and give you passion. And it might not be music. It might be business, it might be technology, it might be teaching or medicine, or anything else. For me it was working with young people that gave me passion. But no matter what sparks your imagination, I want you to take that energy and then follow it. Follow it with every little piece of energy that you have, because whatever you do, it does take work. And that’s the one thing you have to get in your mind, that even when you love something, if you’re going to be good at it and get good enough at it, you have to invest in it.
And I also want you all to imagine yourselves coming back to the White House maybe years from now, sitting up on this stage and hearing from some future First Lady or future President. And I want you to be thinking about telling your story to the next generation of young people. And you have to be able to see yourselves in these places to begin to imagine and to dream and to work towards those dreams.
You can tell your story; you’ll be telling them how you grew up in Washington or maybe in Rockville, how you worked hard, how you kept chasing your dreams, how you got invited to the White House one day and sat and listened to some of the finest artists in the country and that made you go back and work a little harder and focus a little more.
I want you, every single one of you, to believe that something like that is possible for you, because if I’m standing here as the First Lady of the United States, having grown up on the South Side of Chicago, with a father who was a stationary fireman and a mother who stayed at home, parents who didn’t go to college -- if I’m here, then you can be here, right? You can be here. But it’s only if you believe in that. You’ve got to start out, first of all, believing in that for yourselves. And it only happens if you’re willing to work for it.
So today, I want you to use this as an opportunity. So don’t feel shy or bashful. Use these gentlemen as resources. Poke them, prod them, ask questions; get all the information that you can. Ignore the media, pretend like you’re here all by yourselves, and make the most of this opportunity.
Will you promise me that? You I don’t worry about. (Laughter.) You. Yes, yes, I think you’re going to be plenty ready to talk. (Laughter.)
So you all enjoy yourselves, right? Keep working hard. Keep staying positive. Listen to your teachers, listen to your parents. Eat your vegetables. (Laughter.) Have to say it.
And with that, I will turn it over to you guys. Thank you all. Have fun. (Applause.)
2:18 P.M. EST