WASHINGTON – It was scheduled to be an upbeat, educational experience at the White House for children across America and featuring some of America’s most legendary performers — and it would be.
But before that could happen, first lady Michelle Obama needed to attend to the somber business of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris that left 128 people dead and hundreds more wounded and assure the 40 children attending the “Broadway at the White House.”
“As my husband said on Friday, this was an attack not just on France, our dear friend and ally, but on all of humanity and our shared values,” Obama told the 40 high school students from various performing arts high schools.
Although the world mourns, she said, that strength and values that the children at the event represent must be protected.
“And the beauty is that all of you here,” she said. “Our young people that are here, you all reflect that passion, that creativity
“You all are a part of those values that the president talked about. That’s what we’re protecting. We’re protecting what you all represent”
Determination and resilience are key to fostering those values, Obama said.
She turned the panel, which included Broadway and movie actress Cicely Tyson, comedian Whoopi Goldberg, actress and television star, and Latin singer and film producer Gloria Estefan, to illustrate her point.
“It took a lot more than their just pure, raw talent for these folks to be where they are, she said. “They weren’t born knowing how to act or direct or sing. Their achievements took years of honing.
“And that’s something we want to remind all young people. It looks easy up here. You think that the path is always straight, but it rarely is.”
Other panelist included “Glee” actor Matthew Morrison, Broadway’s “Fun House” actress Gabriella Pizzolo, composer of “Cats” and many other award-winning Broadway musicals Andrew Llyod Webber, director of “Hair” Diane Paulus and co-founder of film distributor Miramax Harvey Weinstein
Tyson said she overcame many issues in her career.
“I turned “no” into “on,” move on,” she said. “I never allowed anything anyone said to me to dissuade me from whatever I was feeling was my mission.
Pizzolo, 12, started acting at age six and has since performed in two Broadway
plays. She told the students about her persistence and motivation.
“I really wanted to do it, so I did it,” she said.
Estefan who will be presented the highest civilian award, The Medal of Freedom, said that in pursuing her dream, she and her husband were
able to live a life they love.
“This is a skill, a beautiful thing to be able to do,” Estefan said. “We made a living at what we do, which is a passion for both of us.”
Goldberg encouraged the students to pursue their careers in acting, but warned becoming a star is often by chance.
“Oftentimes stars are accidental,” she said. “So if you love what you do, you can do it anywhere. If you're an actor you can go anywhere and act.”
Obama, the founder of the “The Reach Higher” and “Let Girls Learn” initiatives, said believes that education is paramount success regardless of the field.
“Going to school and getting that foundation is only going to prepare you to do the kinds of things you want — whether it’s singing or producing or songwriting,” she said.
“So, never, never think that school is just sort of that side thing you do to get where you want to be. School and education lays the foundation so that you can ultimately be great at what you do. It’s all relevant.”