What follows is a transcript of the remarks by the First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, held in the East Room this afternoon, November 19, 2012.
"MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thanks so much. Well, good afternoon.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
MRS. OBAMA: And welcome to the White House. It’s good to have you here. I am thrilled that all of you are here joining us today.
I want to start by thanking the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and all their work for sponsoring these awards each year. They’ve just done an amazing job. And I’d like to ask all of the members of the committee to please stand so that we can recognize you for all of your hard work. (Applause.) It’s a pretty impressive group.
I also want to specifically acknowledge -- I’m off my game. (Laughter.) I haven’t been -- I’ve been speaking a lot, and then sort of took a little time off -- but our committee co-chairs George Stevens and Margo Lion for all of their hard work. Thank you both. (Applause.) And we also have Jim Leach, Rocco Landesman, Susan Hildreth, Mary Schmidt Campbell; we have Minister Deng who is here, and our youth program speaker, Starr Arroyo who’s going to -- you’ll hear from Starr. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank Congressman Platts for joining us today. Where’s the Congressman? There you are. I walked right past you. Thank you so much for being here today. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of the educators, the artists, leaders, all of you who are working every day in communities all across this country to run the programs that we are going to recognize here today.
And every day, you all are doing the hard work. You are pushing and inspiring our kids. You’re revealing their boundless promise, and teaching them to believe in themselves. Because of the programs that you all run, young people are learning breakdancing, hip hop, African drumming -- a lot of stuff going on, right? -- a little traditional music. They’re putting on plays, publishing poems and articles, and working on museum exhibits. They’re becoming historians, designers and champion debaters. Yes. (Laughter.)
And the young people from the Mariachi Master Apprentice Program who will perform for us a little later on, they have even recorded their own CD. That’s pretty good. (Applause.) So we are looking forward to that. I got to hear a little bit of their practice yesterday. They’re pretty good, pretty good. (Laughter.) Very proud to have you guys here.
And I know that many of you who are here today, you make all this happen on shoestring budgets; you do it in unbelievable ways, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. And I know that you put a lot of late nights and long hours in to give these kids opportunities worthy of their promise.
But you keep on doing this year after year because you have seen firsthand the transformative power of the arts and arts education in the lives of young people across this country. You know that the skills that you’re teaching -- skills like problem-solving and teamwork, self-expression -- these skills aren’t just valuable in the studio or in the theater, but they are critical in the classroom and will be in the workplace when you all get there, right?
You all see that every day -- the promise of the work in the rising GPAs, because all of these students are doing wonderful things. I met a young woman who is going to go into biology, studying at UCLA, in our mariachi band -- women in science, great things.
You see it in rising graduation rates, because all of these kids are going to college, right? Let’s hear it again.
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, indeed. You see kids who never considered going to college finally saying to themselves, well, if I can publish my own writing; if I can create my own artwork; if I can get up in front of all these people and perform anywhere, including the East Room of the White House, well, then certainly I can go to college, right? (Laughter.) Of course I can continue my education and expand my ambitions and pursue my dreams, right? You are here. You can do anything.