Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the 2008 Tony award-winning musical In the Heights, was on hand last night as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first ever Poetry Slam to be held at the White House. The president began the evening's events by introducing his wife as "the star of the show, somebody who brings a lot of poetry to my own life." All together now: "Awwwww." Then Michelle went on to explain that she has wanted to bring poetry and spoken word to the White House from the very first day that she arrived.
Miranda shared the stage with actor James Earl Jones, musicians Esperanza Spalding and Mayda Del Valle and poets from Def Poetry Jam. In a refreshing twist, whether intentional or not, almost all of the performers were people of color. But Lin-Manuel got the coveted spot of show closer, and he used it brilliantly to his credit, performing an upbeat solo number that he billed as "the first new song from a musical I'm working on about Alexander Hamilton." He was kidding, we think...at least we hope!
President Obama and the First Lady stayed the entire evening and even let their little ones, Sasha and Malia, stay up late to catch the show. The administration aims to be a strong supporter of the arts, and the very same day as the poetry event, it was leaked that Broadway producer Rocco Landesman would be Mr. Obama’s nominee for chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts—signaling a sharp departure in style from previous artists who have held the post.