Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at the "Hamilton at the White House" Student Workshop

March 14, 2016

MRS. OBAMA: What's going on? We're at the White House! (Laughter.) Are you all excited?


MRS. OBAMA: I am so excited! Well, let me start by thanking the extraordinary performers from Hamilton! (Applause.) They're here! They're all here! (Laughter.) On this stage, we have Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Applause.) We have Daveed Diggs. (Applause.) Christopher Jackson -- Mr. Washington! (Applause.) And the beautiful Phillipa Soo. (Applause.)

And I have to give a special shout-out to the students that we have here. (Applause.) We have students from Laurel High school. (Laughter and applause.) I know, it's you. (Laughter.) Osbourn High School is in the house. (Applause.) Is that all you got? (Laughter.) Loudoun County High School. (Applause.) You all -- oh, that's okay. (Laughter.) You're representing on this side, though.

I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time -- this day right here when we're in the White House with this amazing cast. We host a lot of special events here. We do a lot of really cool things. But this for me personally is the coolest. We've been waiting for this for a long time. And when I say long time, I do mean long time -- (laughter) -- seven years -- seven years -- back when the President and I first got to the White House.

And here's what we thought we wanted to do -- we wanted to change things up here in the White House a little bit. We wanted to open the doors really wide to a bunch of different folks who usually don't get access to this place.

We also wanted to highlight all different kinds of American art -- on all the art forms: Paintings, music, culture -- especially art forms that had never been seen in these walls. So what did we start with? We started with spoken word, because no one had ever held a poetry slam in the White House, that's for sure. (Laughter.) So we scoured the country looking for the hottest spoken-word talent out there, and we found this young guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda from New York City. (Applause.) And a lot of folks were raving about this guy. I mean, Barack and I -- okay, all right, cool, cool. We can do this, we can do this. (Laughter.)

So Lin will remember, right before the event, we do a photoline with all the artists in the Blue Room. So Lin walks up, and Barack and I go, oh, it's great to meet you, and what are you going to do tonight? And he's like, I'm going to do a piece about Alexander Hamilton.

Now, Barack and I, we're open-minded. (Laughter.) We consider ourselves creative people. But we both kind of looked at each other like, oh, okay, this should be interesting. (Laughter.) And then Lin-Manuel got onstage in the East Room, where we'll be later on today, and he got onstage in between the big portraits of George and Martha Washington, and he proceeded to perform the song "Alexander Hamilton," which, as you all know, is the opening number of this amazing musical.

And of course, we were blown away. We were sitting there -- there are probably shots of us sitting there with our mouths open going, "Who is this dude? What is he up to?" (Laughter.) And back then, he told us that he was going to do an entire musical about Alexander Hamilton. And we knew that this had the potential of being really, really good based on his performance, but what we didn't know -- could never have imagined that it would be a work of genius -- true genius.

I saw the off-Broadway version of Hamilton, got to meet the whole cast then. Was I excited enough? (Laughter.) Was I excited enough to see you all? And it was simply, as I tell everybody, the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life. And I became a fan, a devotee. The cast, man, made up of such diverse, talented -- oh, gosh -- people that I'd ever seen.

The show is creative. It is hilarious. It is memorable. And I loved it so much that I saw it again when you guys went to Broadway. I don't think I came backstage, I snuck out. (Laughter.) And then I made my husband and my children go see it -- you guys got to see them. And of course, my children, because I loved it so much, they were like, "It couldn't be that good." (Laughter.) You know how you all are with -- if your mom likes it, it can't be cool. I raved about it so much, so they went in very skeptical. But they came out true believers, like everyone does when they see the show.

As we all know, Hamilton has become not just a Broadway hit, but a global sensation. Shows are sold out until January, February, or whatever. It is the hardest ticket to get on the planet. It brought the house down at the Grammys, we all saw that. That was really cool. And it's one of the best-selling cast albums in half a century, is what my notes are telling me here. (Laughter.)

And that is not surprising, because Hamilton is an amazing story that is beautifully told. Through Hamilton, Lin-Manuel reveals all the drama and the glory, the heartbreak that run through our nation's history. And he shows us that the icons in our history books were real people with real brilliance, but also with real flaws.

So really, Hamilton teaches us history the way it really should be taught. I mean, to my mind, this is what school should be. (Laughter.) We'd have a lot of great historians if we could only figure out how to do this more -- for more subjects. I remember I was telling Lin-Manuel that he's got to do this for, like, the Middle East, and all the other issues. You've got to talk about slavery. You've got to cover it all. (Laughter.)

And I'm just thrilled that Lin-Manuel and the cast and crew of Hamilton have committed themselves to bringing this show and its lessons to as many young people as possible. I am just as proud of them for that kind of work as I am for their talent. They're offering reduced-price tickets and squeezing in new shows -- and this is true for a cast that -- I hear you all just got some understudies. They're helping over 20,000 New York City students attend at least a performance. They've developed this fabulous curriculum and materials that you all have been studying, I understand.

And today, they've come here to spend the day with all of you. I think you all are probably some of the luckiest young people on the planet right now, right here, today. (Applause.) And, as we were saying backstage, this is really a full-circle moment for us in so many ways. Seven years later, that first performance won our hearts, and Lin-Manuel is back at the White House with the entire cast with this amazing crew of young people.

So I'm excited. And I want to thank Lin-Manuel and the entire Hamilton cast and crew. Thank you for moving mountains to be here. We know you guys are so busy, and taking the time out to spend an entire day here and to just bless us with another performance this evening is -- it's cool. It's really cool.

So you guys, I want you to take advantage of this time. I know we're in the White House, and I know it seems all fancy -- it is fancy. (Laughter.) But ask questions. Don't be shy. Talk a lot -- no, really. Really. This really -- we're doing this for you.

And I also want you, because this is such a special moment, to find a way that you're going to move this forward. Because there are a lot of kids who would love to be in this seat. So what are you going to do to spread this energy when you leave here? Who else can you touch? Who could benefit from the time that you'll have?

We think the world of young people in this country. That's why, every time we do an amazing performance like this where we have big fancy folks at night, we make sure that we bring the young people in so that they get a special touch. Because you guys are our future, and you have a President and a First Lady who love you to death. We love you like you're our kids, and we want the absolute best for you. We want to expose you to the absolute best that this country and this world has to offer. And then we expect you to do great things with it.

Be really good people with strong values. Love education. Be kind to each other. And be leaders in your community in whatever way you can. We need you. We need good, smart young people running the world.

So enjoy this time. You guys, be good. (Laughter.) I don't know what's going to happen when I leave, but I'll be watching. (Laughter.) And I'll see everyone later on this evening. So have a great time. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the "Hamilton at the White House" Student Workshop Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320911

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