The Mists of Avalon

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I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time — this day right here when we’re in the White House with this amazing cast.  We host a lot of special events here.  We do a lot of really cool things.  But this for me personally is the coolest.  We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  And when I say long time, I do mean long time — (laughter) — seven years — seven years — back when the President and I first got to the White House.

And here’s what we thought we wanted to do — we wanted to change things up here in the White House a little bit.  We wanted to open the doors really wide to a bunch of different folks who usually don’t get access to this place.

We also wanted to highlight all different kinds of American art — on all the art forms:  Paintings, music, culture — especially art forms that had never been seen in these walls.  So what did we start with?  We started with spoken word, because no one had ever held a poetry slam in the White House, that’s for sure.  (Laughter.)  So we scoured the country looking for the hottest spoken-word talent out there, and we found this young guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda from New York City.  (Applause.)  And a lot of folks were raving about this guy.  I mean, Barack and I — okay, all right, cool, cool.  We can do this, we can do this.  (Laughter.)

So Lin will remember, right before the event, we do a photoline with all the artists in the Blue Room.  So Lin walks up, and Barack and I go, oh, it’s great to meet you, and what are you going to do tonight?  And he’s like, I’m going to do a piece about Alexander Hamilton.

Now, Barack and I, we’re open-minded.  (Laughter.)  We consider ourselves creative people.  But we both kind of looked at each other like, oh, okay, this should be interesting.  (Laughter.)  And then Lin-Manuel got onstage in the East Room, where we’ll be later on today, and he got onstage in between the big portraits of George and Martha Washington, and he proceeded to perform the song “Alexander Hamilton,” which, as you all know, is the opening number of this amazing musical.

And of course, we were blown away.  We were sitting there — there are probably shots of us sitting there with our mouths open going, “Who is this dude?  What is he up to?”  (Laughter.)  And back then, he told us that he was going to do an entire musical about Alexander Hamilton.  And we knew that this had the potential of being really, really good based on his performance, but what we didn’t know — could never have imagined that it would be a work of genius — true genius.

I saw the off-Broadway version of Hamilton, got to meet the whole cast then.  Was I excited enough?  (Laughter.)  Was I excited enough to see you all?  And it was simply, as I tell everybody, the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.  And I became a fan, a devotee.  The cast, man, made up of such diverse, talented — oh, gosh — people that I’d ever seen.

The show is creative.  It is hilarious.  It is memorable.  And I loved it so much that I saw it again when you guys went to Broadway.  I don’t think I came backstage, I snuck out.  (Laughter.)  And then I made my husband and my children go see it — you guys got to see them.  And of course, my children, because I loved it so much, they were like, “It couldn’t be that good.”  (Laughter.)  You know how you all are with — if your mom likes it, it can’t be cool.  I raved about it so much, so they went in very skeptical.  But they came out true believers, like everyone does when they see the show.

As we all know, Hamilton has become not just a Broadway hit, but a global sensation.  Shows are sold out until January, February, or whatever.  It is the hardest ticket to get on the planet.  It brought the house down at the Grammys, we all saw that.  That was really cool.  And it’s one of the best-selling cast albums in half a century, is what my notes are telling me here.  (Laughter.)

And that is not surprising, because Hamilton is an amazing story that is beautifully told.  Through Hamilton, Lin-Manuel reveals all the drama and the glory, the heartbreak that run through our nation’s history.  And he shows us that the icons in our history books were real people with real brilliance, but also with real flaws.

So really, Hamilton teaches us history the way it really should be taught.  I mean, to my mind, this is what school should be.  (Laughter.)  We’d have a lot of great historians if we could only figure out how to do this more — for more subjects.  I remember I was telling Lin-Manuel that he’s got to do this for, like, the Middle East, and all the other issues.  You’ve got to talk about slavery.  You’ve got to cover it all.  (Laughter.)  … Michelle Obama

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