Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at the Música Latina Workshop

September 16, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: Good morning, everyone.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

MRS. OBAMA: And buenos dias.

AUDIENCE: Buenos dias.

MRS. OBAMA: That's about all I got. (Laughter.) You guys, sit, rest. It's good to have you here. How is everybody doing? Did you get in easily? Nobody got too wet? It's exciting. You're in the White House! How does it feel? (Applause.)

I want to start by introducing the wonderful people on stage with me. Of course, we have Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who are just legends -- (applause) -- legends and dear, dear friends. They have been here quite often, and they feel like family. They're used to this place, and we are so glad to have them back and -- taking the time to do this.

We have Lila Downs -- Lila. (Applause.) Romeo Santos we have, as well. (Applause.) Marco Antonio Solis. (Applause.) And my wonderful friend, Bob Santelli from the Grammy Museum, who has just been so instrumental in making these workshops happen. Bob, thank you, as always, for being here. (Applause.)

But our very special, most important guests today are all of you. You guys come from the area -- we've got Woodrow Wilson High School and the Columbia Heights Educational Campus here from D.C. You guys, whoop it up. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.) We have students from Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring -- (applause) -- see, that's what you do. All right, we can go back to Woodrow Wilson and Columbia Heights, because you guys didn't do that for yourselves. (Applause.) And Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. (Applause.) Way to go, well done. (Laughter.)

And I really want you all to know that today and every day, this is your house. So I want you guys to relax, to loosen up, to take a deep breath. Because I want to make sure that you get everything you can get out of this experience, and you can do that if you kind of breathe in and stop thinking about being in the State Room, but actually -- using this as an opportunity to learn and ask questions. So make yourselves at home. That's what this workshop is all about. And it is one of the most important traditions that our family has started here at the White House.

Whenever we have musicians or artists or movie stars come here to perform -- which these folks will be doing these evening for a bunch of rich people and fancy people and all of that, right -- the most fun is when we invite young people like all of you here during the day so that you get a chance to talk to these folks and learn from them. It's a very special part of sharing what we do here at the White House with young people all over the country.

And we've held workshops from everything from classical music, we've done Motown, we've done country music. We've even done some modern dance workshops, as well as workshops on civil rights. We're going to be doing some things with film in the coming month.

So today, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we're here to celebrate some of the most fun, dynamic rhythmic melodies you'll ever hear in your entire life, and that's Latin music. Me encanta la musica Latina! (Applause.) I'm trying, I'm trying. Both the girls are taking Spanish, and they think we're pretty pathetic. (Laughter.)

Now, the percussive beats and the buoyant melodies from these songs come just -- from just about everywhere. You'll learn they come from the Caribbean and Mexico, and from Central and South America, and also even from Africa and Europe. And when you put all of that together, you can't help but move to the music -- even the President, you will see tonight, will shake his groove thing every now and then. (Laughter.)

And over the past few decades, more and more people across America have experienced this music for themselves -- stars like Gloria and Ritchie Valens and Ricky Martin have not only helped Latin music move into the mainstream, but they have produced some of the biggest hits this world, this country has ever seen.

So in a little bit, I'm going to turn it over to Bob, and these wonderful people up here are going to talk to you about their music, but also about how they got where they are today, which is always so cool to hear. So as you listen to their stories, I want you to think about how the lessons they've learned in their lives can apply to your own lives. Because the truth is, I want you to remember that when all of us were your age, I'm sure that none of us imagined that we would be here in the White House -- none of us.

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. My parents were working class. I was a good student. But no one could have told me that I would be the First Lady of the United States.

Romeo was just a shy kid from the Bronx who didn't start singing until he joined his church choir when he was 13 years old. And then, I hear that was just because he wanted to meet girls. (Laughter.) And Gloria still remembers growing up on meals of Spam and cheese. Emilio first emigrated to the United States -- when he did, he lived in an apartment, a little apartment in Miami with 15 cousins. And Lila spent time working in her mom's auto parts store in Mexico before her career got going. And while Marco Antonio has been performing since he was a young boy, he knows that there's no secret to his or anyone else's success. And one of the things he says -- these are his words -- he says, "Inspiration comes from hard work. You can't always wait for the muse."

And that's why he and all the folks up here spend so much time honing their craft. They spend hours and hours every week, probably every day, practicing their songs, rewriting their melodies and fine-tuning their performances. It doesn't happen overnight. And those are the kind of things that all of you will have to keep in mind and do as you work on pursuing whatever dreams you have. The real message here is that it all takes hard work -- it really does.

I can tell you now that the President spends hours -- above and beyond what you see him do every day, he spends hours reading briefings and being advised. And when he is not reading briefings and going over issues, he is reading whatever he can get his hands on so that he can stay on top of knowing everything he has to know about what's going on in the world. He works every day. And he has always been that -- well, I shouldn't say always. He was a little trifling as a young student. (Laughter.) He will even admit that.

But he woke up as a young man and decided, I have to get my act together. And from then on, he has been a pretty serious, hardworking person. The same is true for me. Whenever I have to give a speech I spend a lot of time with my team working it over so that it looks good and it looks natural and that I understand what I'm saying. It all takes hard work.

Any business leader that you see who is running a company, let me tell you, they spend a lifetime working on presentations and studying market trends. Athletes, as you know, they bust their tails in the gym before, during, and after the games and off seasons. Everybody is putting some work in. If you are a scientist making great discoveries, let me tell you it will take decades of experimenting and researching before you'll even get a glimmer of a breakthrough.

So, again, if there's one thing I want you to take away from all of this is that if you find something that you're passionate about -- and that's all us grownups wish for our kids, is that you find the thing that gives you passion -- that when you find it, that you know that the next step is working hard. There is no shortcut to pursuing your dreams -- than hard work. And you have everything you need right now, right this very second, to achieve what you want to achieve.

If you commit yourselves, and more importantly, if you commit yourselves to your education, there is nothing more important that you can be doing for yourselves right now than taking your education seriously and practicing that hard work on your books and your studies and your homework -- being engaged, opening your mouth, raising your hand, making mistakes, getting over it when you do. All of that stuff is preparation for the success that I hope all of you all see in the years to come.

And if you do all of that and don't make excuses, don't let excuses stand in the way of your success -- if you do all of that I know that you might just one day either be performing or living right here in the White House. You have what it takes.

So keep it up. We are proud of you. We love you all. That's one of the reasons why it's so important for us to share these experiences with you, because you may just take away the thing that you need to spark that sense of possibility in yourselves or maybe pass it on to someone else.

So loosen up. Breathe. And take advantage of these folks who are spending this time with you today. And I hope you have fun, and thanks for coming. And good luck this year in school. You all take care. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the Música Latina Workshop Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320138

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives