Remarks by the First Lady at Ribbon Cutting of the Anna Wintour Costume Center
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, New York
11:03 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you, all. Please.
Good afternoon. It is truly a pleasure to be here with all of you today as we inaugurate this brand new center in honor of our friend, Anna Wintour.
I want to start by thanking Tom for that very brief introduction -- it’s to the point -- but more importantly, for his outstanding leadership here at the Met. I also want to acknowledge all of the elected officials joining us today. And I want thank Aerin Lauder, and Harold Koda, and everyone else whose generosity and creativity and hard work have made this day possible, especially Anna herself.
Now, I know that Anna hates being the center of attention, so this all is probably killing her -- but we love it. But the truth is, I’m here today because of Anna. I’m here because I have such respect and admiration for this -- women who I am proud to call my friend. And I’m here because I am so impressed by Anna’s contributions not just to the fashion industry, but to the many causes she shares and cares about, particularly this great American museum.
Thanks to Anna and so many other dedicated individuals, the Met will be opening up the world of fashion like never before. And that’s really the mission of this new space –- to show that fashion isn’t an exclusive club for the few who can attend a runway show or shop at certain stores. This Center is for anyone who is curious about fashion and how it impacts our culture and our history.
And we know that that curiosity is out there. Previous exhibits at the Costume Institute have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of them students. And as we cut this ribbon today, that’s really who I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about all of the young people who will find their way to this new space.
Now, maybe they’ll come initially because they love clothes and they love shopping, but then they’ll learn that fashion isn’t just about what we wear but that fashion is also a business, it is an art; it’s a career that involves science, engineering, accounting, marketing and so much more.
Maybe they’ll learn about the math behind Charles James’ designs and they’ll think to themselves, maybe I should pay closer attention in geometry this semester. (Laughter.) Maybe they’ll think about going to college. Or maybe they’ll learn what it takes to succeed in the fashion industry; how you need passion, and grit, and a fierce belief in yourself and in your vision –- traits that all of our young people should develop.
And then once they’ve finished with the exhibits here, maybe these young people will wander over to another part of this extraordinary museum. Maybe they’ll spend an afternoon learning about Islamic or Asian Art. Maybe they’ll check out the photographs, or view the endless galleries of great American Art, and maybe they’ll have an even greater appreciation for our history or a newfound interest in a foreign culture or language.
So for our young people –- and for people of all ages, for that matter -– this Center will be a source of learning and inspiration, and it will be a gateway to so much more. So I think it’s fitting that this place bears Anna Wintour’s name, because that is who Anna is. That is what she’s about.
Anna is one of the most powerful leaders in the fashion industry -- she’s one of the most powerful women in any industry, for that matter. And that alone is such a singular accomplishment. But Anna has never been content just to achieve greatly in the fashion world. She has always used her power for so much more. From working tirelessly to end HIV/AIDS, to creating Fashion’s Night Out to boost the economy, and to her comparable -- incomparable efforts to support the Met, time and again, Anna has sought the spotlight not for herself, but for the people and causes she believes in.
And today, Anna and I are actually working on an idea to bring students to the White House for a fashion workshop. So I hope you all behave; maybe you get an invitation. (Laughter.) The idea is to show young people what it takes to succeed, and how important it is for them to commit to their education. You see, Anna understands that those of us who have been blessed with opportunities to succeed have an obligation to reach back and bring others along with us –- and not just with words of praise, but with meaningful, sustained support.
That’s what the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund is all about. It’s about lifting up brilliant young designers not just with money, but with mentorship and connections, all of the things they need to succeed and dream even bigger for themselves.
And that is really my message to the young people here today. You’re here because we want you to dream bigger. You’re here because we believe in your promise, and we know that if you commit to your education, if you work like never before, if you have the courage to fail and fail and fail again until you finally succeed, then one day you could be just like the legendary designers who are here today. One day, you could be a leader in the fashion industry, or in any industry you choose.
And when that happens for you, I hope you’ll look back and you will see who you can bring up with you, like Anna does. I hope you will use your power to be an inspiration-multiplier like Anna, so we can create more days like today.
And I think Anna really said it best when, during an interview, she was asked what power means to her and she replied, simply: “It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to help others, and for that I’m extremely grateful.”
Well, Anna, the feeling is very much mutual. It really is. We are so grateful for all that you have given back, and we are so thrilled to see your name on this wonderful new Center. And we look forward to all you will continue to contribute in the years ahead.
And with that, it is my pleasure to help cut this ribbon. Anna, and others, would you please join me on stage? Thank you so much. (Applause.)
11:11 A.M. EDT