Category Archives: Culture

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts Dance Workshop With Students At The White House

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

First Lady Michelle Obama embraces Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Judith Jamison during the first White House Dance Series in the East Room of the White House September 7, 2010 in Washington, DC. The dance event was a tribute Jamison, a famous modern dancer, choreographer and muse to Alvin Ailey. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)


While the economy remains the President’s central focus, which he will discuss again tomorrow in Cleveland, the First Lady continues to celebrate America’s cultural heritage amongst her many other issues, from military families to tackling childhood obesity. First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the White House Music Series more than a year ago with The Jazz Studio, describing it as an event that “exemplifies what I think the White House, the People’s House, should be about. This is a place to honor America’s past, celebrate its present and create its future. And that’s why all of you all are here today. It’s about you, the future.” Today, Mrs. Obama will welcome dance students and world-renowned dancers for the Administration’s first event celebrating dance. Featuring American dance from ballet to hip hop.

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The White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison honors Jamison for her outstanding career as an American dancer, choreographer, and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for the past 20 years.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts 2010 National Design Awards Luncheon

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Bill Moggridge

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Timothy Gunn during a luncheon honoring the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's National Design Award recipients in the East Room of the White House. July 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

What a thrill it was to participate in the White House ceremony hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday as she celebrated the 2010 National Design Awards honorees. The First Lady serves as the honorary patron for this year’s National Design Awards and her commitment to arts and design based education made this a very special event. We are honored to once again receive the patronage of the First Lady, as her support does such a lot to advance awareness of the importance of design.

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The day began with a Teen Design Fair at the Smithsonian American Art Renwick Gallery, where DC high school students met one-on-one with leading designers in the fields of fashion, industrial design, architecture, multimedia and graphic design, including Jenna Lyons of J.Crew, Maira Kalman, Smart Design and Stephen Doyle. To close out the morning, an inspiring Q&A was held with Tim Gunn and Caroline Payson, Cooper-Hewitt’s Education Director, about the value of design education. Tim talked about how it took him time to find his design path and said that “there was no magic sauce to become a designer; it requires hard work and experience.”

Following the Teen Design Fair, the award winners and finalists attended a special luncheon at the White House, hosted by the First Lady. It was a very festive event and the setting reinforced the tremendous amount of design talent that exists in this country. Mrs. Obama’s speech emphasized the importance of design and arts education, and celebrated the value of the work of the award winners. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, introduced the National Design Award program and thanked the sponsors, and I showed slides of the winners and their work, naming both finalists and winners, you can see them here. I was lucky enough to sit next to the First Lady for lunch, so we talked about expanding the opportunities for high-schoolers to study design and develop their creative talents. Tim Gunn was sitting on her other side, so he was able to tell her a lot about learning the art of fashion design.

A great conversation piece at the table were ViewMasters (designed by 2008 Lifetime Achievement winner Charles Harrison) with slides of the award winners’ work. The mutual appreciation in the room among the designers was quite moving, especially when James Corner of Field Operations told Design Mind winner Ralph Caplan that his books had a huge impact on his work.

The Awards program was launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, and the annual National Design Awards celebrate design in various disciplines as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. The awards are Cooper-Hewitt’s most visible education program and always include a variety of special events, panel discussions and workshops.

The awards recognize extraordinary contributions to design in 10 categories: Lifetime Achievement, Design Mind, Corporate and Institutional Achievement, Architecture Design, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Landscape Design and Product Design. The award recipients also will be honored at a gala dinner Oct. 14 in New York.

This fall, Cooper-Hewitt will continue celebrating the awards with National Design Week, which will take place Oct. 9-17, which aims to promote a better understanding of the role that design plays in all aspects of daily life. The museum will offer free admission to all visitors, courtesy of Target, and provide a range of online resources celebrating design throughout the week. Our website also features the year-round “Design Across America” map listing design-oriented events throughout the country. In addition to hosting a second Teen Design Fair in New York, our programs reach school teachers and their students nationally, in the classroom and online through Cooper-Hewitt’s Educator Resource Center. The site features more than 300 lesson plans aligned to national and state standards that demonstrate how the design process can enhance the teaching of all subjects and features discussion boards that provide a forum for educators to exchange ideas.

Bill Moggridge is Director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Remarks by the First Lady at Cooper Hewitt Design Awards Luncheon

Master plan for Grand Central Partnership B.I.D., New York, NY, 1986–95. Artist: Jane Thompson, Winner of Lifetime Achievement Award.


International Design Conference, Aspen, CO, 1967–2001. Artist: Ralph Caplan, Winner of the Design Mind Award.


Cellophane House, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 2008. Artist: Kieran Timberlake, Winner of Architecture Design Award.


The High Line, section 1, New York, NY, 2009. Artist: James Corner, Winner of the Landscape Design Award


Machiavelli: The Discourses construction, 2007. Artist: Stephen Doyle, Winner of the Communications Design Award.


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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Honor Sir Paul McCartney at White House

Posted by: Audiegrl

Written by Kori Schulman

Sir Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder perform Ebony and Ivory at a concert honoring McCartney, recipient of the Gershwin prize, in the East Room of the White House. June 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)


Last night, President Obama presented America’s highest award for popular music − the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song − to Sir Paul McCartney in the East Room of the White House.

Artists from all genres and backgrounds joined the President and First Lady to honor Sir Paul McCartney, including Stevie Wonder, the Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris, Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Corinne Bailey Rae, David Grohl, and Jerry Seinfeld. As they gathered to present the annual award for extraordinary contributions to American music and culture, in his remarks, the President took a moment to address the challenges Americans face and the value of music in tough times:

We’ve gone through a difficult year and a half, and right now our thoughts and our prayers are with friends in another part of the country that is so rich in musical heritage — the people of the Gulf Coast who are dealing with something that we simply had not seen before. And it’s heartbreaking. And we reaffirm, I think together, our commitment to see to it that their lives and their communities are made whole again.

But part of what gets us through tough times is music, the arts, the ability to capture that essential kernel of ourselves, that part of us that sings even when times are hard. And it’s fitting that the Library has chosen to present this year’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to a man whose father played Gershwin compositions for him on the piano; a man who grew up to become the most successful songwriter in history -– Sir Paul McCartney.

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The concert will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 8:00 PM EDT as “In Performance at the White House Celebrating the Music of Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize.”

Corinne Bailey Rae performs at a concert honoring Paul McCartney, recipient of the Gershwin prize, in the East Room of the White House. June 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last year, the President presented Stevie Wonder with the 2nd Annual Library of Congress Gershwin Prize. The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.

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Vice-President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden Attend the Sesame Workshop’s 8th Annual Benefit Gala

Posted by: Audiegrl

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend Sesame Workshop's 8th Annual Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 2, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America)

The muppets weren’t the only ones at last night’s Sesame Workshop’s 8th Annual Benefit Gala–the Bidens found their way to the fete, too! Jill and Joe conversed with some of our favorite furry friends. Both were dressed properly for the occasion–Jill in Grover blue dress and Joe in a tie tinted Rosita cyan. 😉

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner, Hosted by Jay Leno

Posted by: Audiegrl

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Red Carpet

The 2010 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner brought politicos, reporters and celebrities to the red carpet…and the sartorial theme of the night also seemed to be red! First Lady Michelle Obama led the way in a magnificent gown by up-and-coming designer Prabal Gurung, and also spotted sporting the hue of the evening were Mariska Hargitay, Katie Couric, Kathie Lee Gifford and Gayle King.

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President Obama Trades Jokes with Jay Leno

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C. May 1, 2010. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images North America)

President Obama made his second appearance at the annual White House Press and Scholarship Dinner last night in Washington, D.C. He took the dais before the headliner Jay Leno, remarking, “I’m also glad to be speaking first. We’ve all seen what happens to the person in the time slot after Leno.”

But Leno was far from the only subject of the President’s jokes. Senators, Members of Congress and his own Administration were all fair game. Of the recently passed health reform legislation, he noted:

“You might have heard we passed a health care bill. And some Republicans have suggested that the bill contains a few “secret” provisions. That’s ridiculous. There aren’t a few secret provisions in the health care plan. There are like hundreds. And tonight, in the interest of transparency, I’d like to share a couple. Let’s see here. This provision is called the “Bay State of Denial.” It reads, “This bill shall cover short-term memory loss related to the passage of Massachusetts health care reform.” Good news, Mitt, your condition is covered! This next provision is called the “Jersey Shore-Up.” It reads, “The following individuals shall be excluded from the indoor tanning tax within this bill: Snooki, J-Woww, the Situation, and House Minority Leader John Boehner.” This provision ought to put a common misconception to rest. It says right here: “If you do not like the ruling of your death panel, you can appeal it.”

He concluded his remarks before Leno took the stage with a reminder of the necessary role of the fourth estate:

“Some of you are seasoned veterans who have been on the political beat for decades. Others here tonight began their careers as bloggers not long ago. But I think it’s fair to say that every single reporter in this room believes deeply in the enterprise of journalism. Every one of you, even the most cynical among you, understands and cherishes the function of a free press in the preservation of our system of government and our way of life. And I want you to know that for all the jokes and occasional gripes, I cherish that work as well. In fact, tonight, I wanted to present you all with a bipartisan, Congressional resolution that honors all those wonderful contributions that journalists have made to our country and our world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t break the filibuster.”

Full Transcript of the Remarks

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The Vanity Fair/Bloomberg White House Correspondents’ Dinner After-Party


Vanity Fair/Michael Hogan~Despite news of a sobering scare in Times Square and an unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the power elites of Washington, New York, and Hollywood managed to squeeze in an evening of revelry in the nation’s capital. The party, hosted by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg, was held at the French ambassador’s sprawling residence, just blocks from the Washington Hilton, where the White House Correspondents’ Dinner took place earlier in the evening.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly were not on hand, having flown back to Manhattan after a car full of explosives was discovered in Times Square, but there were plenty of other power brokers available to fill the vacuum. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod exerted their magnetic pull on “powerstruck” partygoers (to use a phrase coined during the party by guest Ryan Seacrest), while News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and Google C.E.O. Eric Schmidt served as human reminders that clout comes in colors other than red and blue.

The mood had changed since last year, when the Obama administration’s newly minted stars easily outshone the Hollywood imports. After a year of bruising battles, Rahm, Axe, Orszag, and co. looked a bit paler in comparison with the impressive array of movie stars (Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Anna Kendrick, Rosario Dawson, Bradley Cooper, Gabourey Sidibe, Zach Galifianakis, Jeremy Renner, Michael Douglas, Ashley Judd, Jessica Alba), TV actors (Chace Crawford, Adrian Grenier, Chelsea Handler, Jimmy Fallon, Matthew Morrison, and The Wire’s Dominic West, Michael K. Williams, Sonja Sohn), directors (Kathryn Bigelow, J.J. Abrams), athletes (Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo), designers (Donatella Versace, Jason Wu), and musicians (Jon Bon Jovi, the Jonas Brothers, John Cougar Mellencamp, T-Bone Burnett).

Sex in the City actresses Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis

Still, this being Washington, there was a central role for political figures and the people who cover them. Senator Chris Dodd, the chief sponsor of the financial-reform bill now making its way through the upper chamber of Congress, chatted with Murdoch while Larry Summers, Colin Powell, Eric Holder, Jane Harman, Richard Holbrooke, and Austan Goolsbee circulated nearby. (Congressman John Dingell, the Dean of the House, parked his 83-year-old frame on a couch and let the people come to him.) Luke Russert of NBC News made nice with the movie people and GQ Washington correspondent Ana Marie Cox squired musician Rhett Miller around the porch, but most of the political press corps seemed content to stick to their beat. Politico savant Mike Allen collected tidbits from the parties he’d somehow missed, ABC News political director David Chalian congratulated Axelrod assistant Eric Lesser on a flatteringNew York Times Magazine profile, and Jon Meacham, Maureen Dowd, David Gregory, Katie Couric, Walter Isaacson, and Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn mingled with V.F.’s Christopher Hitchens, Dee Dee Myers, Todd S. Purdum, Maureen Orth, Bob Colacello, Cullen Murphy, and Graydon and Anna Carter.

More than one guest was overheard to remark on the French ambassador’s enviable living conditions. The generously apportioned rooms, hung with portraits of bygone aristocrats, were luxurious enough, but the spacious grounds took things to another level. It was warm enough to spend the whole night outdoors, in the shadow of tall trees that were lit up for the occasion in shifting patterns of orange, green, and pre-dawn blue. Those most determined to see and be seen clustered on the main terrace, but others gravitated to less crowded spaces. Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann set up camp on the stairs leading down to the pool, drawing in any funny people who happened to pass by. The veterans of The Wire, meanwhile, hung together on a side balcony, posing for group snapshots with grateful fans.

At 3 a.m., a crowd of about 100 partygoers remained, reluctant to call it a night. A host of intractable problems awaited them back in the real world, but for the moment it was enough to worry how they might wrangle one last drink.

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White House Butler for 8 Presidents Dies

Posted by: Bluedog89

WP~Eugene Allen, who endured a harsh and segregated upbringing in his native Virginia and went on to work for eight presidents as a White House butler, died March 31 of renal failure at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. He was 90.

Mr. Allen and his wife, Helene, were profiled in a Washington Post story in 2008 that explored the history of blacks in the White House. The couple were excited about the possibility of Barack Obama’s historic election and their opportunity to vote for him. Helene, however, died on the eve of the election, and Mr. Allen went to vote alone. The couple had been married for 65 years.

Afterward, Mr. Allen, who had been living quietly in a simple house off Georgia Avenue NW in the District, experienced a fame that he had only witnessed beforehand. He received a VIP invitation to Obama’s swearing-in, where a Marine guard escorted him to his seat. Eyes watering, he watched the first black man take the oath of office of the presidency.

Mr. Allen was besieged with invitations to appear on national TV shows. There were book offers and dozens of speaking requests, all of which he declined. He also received hundreds of letters, some from as far away as Switzerland, from people amazed at the arc of his life and imploring him to hold on while thanking him for his service to the nation. People in his neighborhood would stop him and explain to their children the outlines of his life.

“He liked to think of himself as just a humble butler,” his only child, Charles, said Thursday. Aside from his son, Mr. Allen is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Mr. Allen was born July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. He worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and later at a country club in Washington. In 1952, he heard of a job opening at the White House and was hired as a “pantry man,” washing dishes, stocking cabinets and shining silverware for $2,400 a year.

He became maitre d’, the most prestigious position among White House butlers, under Ronald Reagan. During Mr. Allen’s 34 years at the White House, some of the decisions that presidents made within earshot of him came to have a direct bearing on his life — and that of black America.

Allen, far right, while working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Allen was in the White House when Dwight D. Eisenhower dealt with the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Eisenhower once asked him about the cancellation of Nat “King” Cole’s TV show, which the president enjoyed. Mr. Allen told him that the show had difficulty attracting advertisers, who were worried about white Southern audiences boycotting their products.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Allen was invited to the funeral. He declined for the most generous of reasons: “Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral,” he told The Post. When first lady Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House afterward, she gave him one of the president’s ties. Mr. Allen had it framed.

Mr. Allen served entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey and Elvis Presley. He flew aboard Air Force One. He sipped root beer at Camp David with Jimmy Carter and visited Eisenhower in Gettysburg after he left the White House. There were always Christmas and birthday cards from the families of the presidents he had served.

He looked up one evening in the White House kitchen to see a lone figure standing in the doorway: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who had insisted on meeting the butlers and maids. Mr. Allen smiled when King complimented him on the cut of his tuxedo.

Allen, far right, with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Archbishop Humberto Medeiros of Boston, and President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Allen served cups and cups of milk and Scotch to help Lyndon B. Johnson settle his stomach when protesters were yelling outside the White House gates during the Vietnam War. He longed to say something to Johnson about his son, who was serving in Vietnam at the time but dared not — save for acknowledging that his son was alive when Johnson asked about him.

It pained Mr. Allen to hear vulgar words, sometimes racially charged, flowing from Johnson’s mouth; and it delighted him when Johnson signed the historic civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.

Mr. Allen serves a party hosted by President Gerald Ford.

Sometimes Mr. Allen’s own life seemed to stop beneath the chandeliered light. First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him one afternoon, and Mr. Allen wondered whether he or a member of his staff had done something wrong. She assured him that he had not but also told him that his services would not be needed at the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Allen tensed, wondering why.

Mr. Allen with President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

“She said, ‘You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself,’ ” he recounted in the Post interview. Mr. Allen thought he was the first butler to receive an invitation to a state dinner. He and Helene — she was a beautiful dresser — looked resplendent that night. The butlers on duty seemed to pay special attention to the couple as they poured champagne for guests — champagne that Mr. Allen himself had stacked in the kitchen.

Mr. Allen was mindful that with the flowering of the black power movement, many young people questioned why he would keep working as a butler, with its connotations of subservience. But the job gave him great pride, and he endured the slights with a dignified posture.

“He was such a professional in everything he did,” said Wilson Jerman, 81, whom Mr. Allen hired to work at the White House in the early 1960s. “When my wife, Gladys, died in 1966, he told me not to worry about a thing. I didn’t think I could get through that period, and he just took me by the hand. I’ll never forget it.”

Mr. Allen retired in 1986, after having been promoted to maitre d’ five years earlier. He possessed a dazzling array of framed photographs with all of the presidents he had served, in addition to gifts and mementos from each of them.

The last item to be framed and placed on Eugene Allen’s basement wall was a condolence letter from George W. and Laura Bush. It arrived from the White House just after the death of Helene.

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Fox Used Footage of Celebrities Without Permission for Palin’s New Show

Posted by: Bluedog89

CNN~Rapper LL Cool J appears to be upset with Sarah Palin and Fox News for using footage of a 2008 interview in its promotion for the former Alaska governor’s upcoming television special.

“Fox lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palins Show. WOW,” the musician Tweeted on Tuesday night.

A promotion for the show – called “Real American Stories: Hosted by Sarah Palin” – features an announcer saying, “They’re famous faces. Now hear the real story behind their incredible lives.” In addition to LL Cool J, country music star Toby Keith and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch are pictured.

LL Cool J wasn’t the only one surprised to see that he was part of Sarah Palin’s upcoming Fox News program, “Real American Stories.”

A representative for country star Toby Keith told CNN that she too was unaware that Fox News was using an old interview of Keith’s, conducted sometime in early 2009.

Toby Keith also unknowing participant in Palin's show.

“I had no idea Toby’s interview was going to air on Sarah Palin’s special. I found out after the press release went out and was contacted by a reporter asking about the show,” Keith’s publicist said. “It is an old interview….I was never contacted by Fox requesting permission. I still have not heard from Fox.”

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