First lady Michelle Obama and actress Kerry Washington stopped by Savoy Elementary School in southeast Washington, D.C., Friday to watch a song-and dance performance that included “Who Put the Bop” and a few other numbers.
Washington has adopted the school in the capital’s Anacostia neighborhood as part of the Turnaround Arts initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which will give grants to low-income schools, seeking to improve students’ overall performance through arts education. Besides the “Scandal” star, actor Forest Whitaker and actress Sarah Jessica Parker also adopted schools last month.
The first lady visited teacher Jacqueline Lyons’ pre-K class and freeze-danced with the students to James Brown’s “Gonna Have a Funky Good Time.” (According to the pool report, Lyons asked the children who James Brown was; they responded, “The Godfather of Soul.”)
Obama delivered remarks from an auditorium stage before the song-and-dance performance, praising Washington for her involvement in the program and offering her up as an inspiration for the students.
“Kerry is a big-time star right now. Big time. I mean, there is no bigger star right now than Kerry,” Obama said. “She’s not just a beautiful, fashionable, talented woman, but she’s real inside, and there is beauty deep inside. The fact that she is flying all over the country, but she comes to spend time with you guys and she does it for real … it shows more her love for all of you. So, Kerry, love you, girl. Keep it going. Very proud of you.
“Kerry got a lot of rejections,” Obama added. “She spent a lot of time developing her craft. She spent a lot of time practicing and working and trying out for things and having people tell her. ‘No,’ ‘No thank you,’ ‘You’re not good enough,’ ‘You’re not pretty enough.’ Could you imagine somebody telling Kerry that she wasn’t pretty enough, she wasn’t tall enough, she was too short? That’s all performing is, is rejection. … But when you work hard and you invest thousands of hours in anything, you get better. And that’s what you guys are learning here at Savoy.”
After the performance, Washington and Obama and the first lady greeted and congratulated the students and teachers.
In a pull-aside interview, Washington praised the Turnaround Arts program.
“It opens them up,” Washington said. “It helps them be front and center, not just on the stage but in their lives and in the classroom.”