Michelle Obama’s Speech to Pittsburgh CAPA Students
…We're here because I wanted to introduce them to some of America's finest, most creative, most accomplished young people. I wanted to come here because I wanted to showcase the value of arts education -- and you put that on display. That fact that it gives the chance to our young people to discover their voices and to develop their talents, this should be an opportunity that is available for every single child in this nation and quite frankly around the world.
And I wanted to come here because this school embodies the belief that President Obama and I share -- and that is the arts aren't just a nice thing to do if you have a little time, right? It's not just a hobby, although it can be a very good hobby. It shouldn't be something you do just because you can afford it.
We believe strongly that the arts aren't somehow an "extra" part of our national life, but instead we feel that the arts are at the heart of our national life. It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways.
And most of all, the arts have the power to connect us to each other throughout nations. It's something that we tend to share with one another as spouses. When we go to other countries, there's a common theme -- that we share our music, we share our dance, we share our culture -- because it reminds us that our world here in America is not so distant from other cultures and worlds around the globe.
It's what happens when a country music star like Trisha Yearwood performs in Italy, and students here at CAPA study Italian Renaissance art. Or when Sara Bareilles draws inspiration from an Icelandic singer named Bjork or a Jamaican singer named Bob Marley. Or when Yo-Yo Ma, born in Paris to Chinese parents, promotes the music of Kazakhstan and Brazil, and Israel, and Egypt and more -- and goes on to become one of the most beloved American artists of all time.
It's through this constant exchange -- this process of taking and giving, this process of borrowing and creating -- that we learn from each other and we inspire each other. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part. I think Yo-Yo Ma put it best when he said, "When you learn something from people or from a culture, you accept it as a gift, and it is your lifelong commitment to preserve that gift and to build on that gift."
And that is what we're doing here today. We're presenting the gifts of these wonderful American artists to our friends from all around the world. And these artists are passing on the gift of their magnificent example to these young people who are here today, studying in this school -- showing them that if they dream big enough, and work hard enough, and believe in themselves, that they can do and achieve some uncommon things in their lifetime.
That is the core of my mission as First Lady -- to share the gifts that come with life in the White House with many of our young people as I possibly can find. That's why I've worked to make the White House a showcase of America's rich cultural life. We have held country music celebrations, and jazz performances, and I think we held the very first poetry jam that has ever happened in the White House.
Read the full transcript here