PITTSBURGH. -- First Lady Michelle Obama called the arts “a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part” during her appearance with fellow first ladies at a high school here, where Obama touted her commitment to the creative arts.
Joined by 20 other spouses from around the world for the G-20 summit, Obama toured the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, and praised the students for their talents.
“As my good friend, Carla Sarkozy, said… in America….here you have people who can sing, and they can dance, and they can act. Now, she said in France it's not often that you get all of those wrapped in one,” she said, quoting the first lady of France.
“But she said there's something unique about America's talents where it's just so natural to see all of that talent on display. So you all should be so very proud.”
A group of spouses dropped in on classrooms for about 20 minutes and gathered for a “family photo” at the school, which is one of the city’s top high schools.
For Obama, it was her first turn at being host spouse and she packed her two day schedule with an intimate dinner at Teresa Heinz Kerry’s farm last night, a school visit Friday, and later a behind the scenes tour of the Andy Warhol Museum.
She said the arts were high on the administration’s agenda.
“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,” she said as a group of students sat in the school’s auditorium. “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.”
As first lady, Obama has become a sort of unofficial arts ambassador in the White House, opening up the executive mansion to several artists from different genres, including jazz and country music. Country crooner Trisha Yearwood was part of the program, which also featured cellist Yo Yo Ma, student dancers , musicians, and singer Sara Bareilles, who Obama said is on regular rotation on her iPod.
“She has gotten me through many a day with ‘Gravity’ and ‘Love Song.’ I love her,” Obama said.
Dressed in a purple and black Maria Cornejo design, with a signature belt, Obama said that the arts have a unique power, “to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common; to help us understand our history and imagine our future; to give us hope in the moments of struggle; and to bring us together when nothing else will.”
Next Wednesday Obama travels to Copenhagen where she will make the pitch for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympic games. She will be joined by Oprah Winfrey, senior White House aide Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.