Tj Host

Wedding Ideas & Inspiration
In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of American Creativity

In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of American Creativity


The President: Well,
good evening, everybody. Audience: Good evening. The President: Welcome
to the White House. You all look
very sharp. (laughter) Tonight, we honor the 50th
anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts
and the Humanities with a celebration of one of
our most precious gifts: American creativity. I want to begin by thanking
tonight’s performers. We have an
unbelievable lineup. Ms. Carol Burnett. Buddy Guy. Queen Latifah. MC Lyte. Audra McDonald. Brian Stokes Mitchell. Keb’ Mo’. Smokey Robinson, and
Trombone Shorty. Esperanza Spalding. James Taylor. Usher. This is an
eclectic bunch. (laughter) But that’s what
tonight is all about. In 1965, a year that
President Lyndon Johnson signed into law some of
America’s most important achievements — Medicare and
Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, the Immigration Act —
he also signed a law creating the National
Endowment of the Arts and the Humanities. And he did this because he
believed in a Great Society that, in his words, “serves
not only the needs of the body and the demands of
commerce, but the desire for beauty and the hunger
for community.” Creativity. It’s always played a
central role in the life of our nation. It is our artists who hold
up a mirror to our society, reminding us of our
common purpose and our collective
obligations. Our music in particular has
always been an honest reflection of who we really
are — a reflection of our successes and our
shortcomings; of our diversity, our imagination,
our restlessness; of our stubborn insistence on
blending the old with the new, tradition with
experimentation. We have lofty expectations
of ourselves, but we don’t often do
lofty in our music. American music is grounded
in the stories of real people living real lives,
telling their stories. Whether jazz or blues,
country or rock and roll, Broadway or hip-hop, it’s
rooted in records of slavery and segregation, Dust Bowl
and Depression, winning wars and coming home, working and
losing that proud factory job; tales of hometowns and
the ‘hood; always tales of falling in love and
having your heart broken. In America, we turn
life into lyrics. “Listen to the lyrics,”
Buddy Guy once said. “We’re singing about
everyday life: rich people trying to keep money, poor
people trying to get it, and everyone having trouble with
their husband or wife!” (laughter) Except me. (applause) By the way, people sometimes
ask me what the biggest perk of being President is. Number one is the plane. (laughter) Number two is Buddy
Guy comes here all the time to my house
with his guitar. (laughter) And then Esperanza
brings her bass and stuff happens
around here. (laughter) But that quintessentially
American creative spirit — sowed in our own soil,
defined by our own experience, flavored by each
new wave of immigrants that reaches our shores — that
may be our greatest export: the American soundtrack. To believe that, you’ve just
got to watch the way that people around the world who
weren’t born in the U.S.A. fall in love with it. It gives you a sense of the
chords we touch through our music, through our art,
through our creativity. And that’s what you’ll hear
tonight, across performances and genres — a road trip
through a sprawling map of American music. You’ll hear it in the
“12-bar, bent-note melody” of Chicago blues
and Delta blues. In New Orleans jazz and
Nashville country. In the Motown of Detroit and
the show tunes that gave Broadway its lights. And you’ll hear it, loudly,
in the rock & roll and hip-hop that parents keep
telling their kids to turn down — until, then,
we become the parents. America. That is who we are. And somewhere out there
right now is the next Esperanza Spalding picking
up her first bass, or the next Audra McDonald singing
into her hairbrush; the next James Taylor strumming
his first chords. It might not sound
so good yet. They’re still learning how
to play; maybe they’re annoying their neighbors. They might not have quite
enough experience for the depth of lyrics that you’ll
hear tonight. But music has taken
hold of their souls. And our task is to make sure
that no matter who they are or where they come from or
what they look like or what their story is, this country
is one that cultivates their talent and gives them
the chance to tell it. That’s got to be true from
school music programs to the National Endowments for the
Arts and the Humanities. We’ve got to support our
artists and celebrate their work, and do our part to
ensure that the American creative spirit that has
defined us from the very beginning will thrive for
generations to come. So with that, it’s my great
pleasure to welcome to our stage our first
performer, Keb’ Mo’. (applause)

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