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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Ladies Grace The Campus of Duke Ellington School of the Arts

First Lady Michelle Obama with DESA principle Rory Pullens and Russia's First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva.

First Lady Obama invited Russia's First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva to a performance at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts after Russia hosted President and Mrs. Obama in Moscow last summer.

While there, the First Family was treated to a performance by the Moiseyev Dance Company.

"That’s why I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to return the hospitality that my family received, and to showcase the extraordinary young people that are here at this school and in this city", said First Lady Obama. "It’s important for the world to see."

Important it is.  Especially to the students and alumni of the famed establishment that has garnered several local talents such as keyboardist Cherie Mitchel-Agurs,Tony Terry, actor Lamman Rucker, and vocalist <>Sylver Logan Sharp.

"First of all I'm just proud", said Sharp.  "It means the world to me to be here, because I'm very proud of my high school. I'm very proud of what the students are doing.  Of all the places that she (First Lady Obama) could be, she's here for Duke Ellington and I'm glad to be a part of it."

For a school that has formed alliances and has the star power of artists like Stevie Wonder in its corner, also having the support of First Lady of the United States speaks volumes.

"This is the most incredible experience", said Duke Ellington principle Rory Pullens.  "This brings exposure to and highlights the excellent Arts program that we have here at Duke Ellington.  We are honored to have the First Lady (of the United States) and the First Lady of the Russian Federation as well."

Pullens who introduced the pair of ladies after the students' performances, joked with the audience asking, "What could we possibly follow up with to match the creative, artistic expression of our students? "I can think of two individuals who just might fit that bill." 

Pullens called the two First Ladies "international champions of the Arts", saying they both understand how critical a component the Arts are to the well being of every nation.

First Lady Medvedev, a pianist, pointed out that Russia is very fond of  jazz music.

Mrs. Medvedeva praised the students' performance and said she would like to form a friendship between Duke Ellington School and Russia's performing Arts students.

"I would like to see the children of our schools, yours and ours, to become friends.  And the friendship that you will establish probably will be the best friendship that you will carry all your lives."

Duke Ellington alumni Derrick Speller agrees, adding that the First Ladys' visit both "enriches" and "brings great energy to the school."

"That's a beautiful thing.  The more people we can get in contact with outside of our own country, helps makes it a whole better place.

The students of Duke Ellington School of the Arts have performed at the White House, and at President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

"I think we’ve really worn you guys out because we have you at the White House almost all the time", said Mrs. Obama. "I think every time we want some young people there, we’re like, Call Duke Ellington!”  

Those sentiments bring smiles to the face of Duke Ellington's rising senior, DeMar Sarter.

"I was proud", the Visual Arts major said.  "It's so nice to hear her talking about our school like that.  I feel like we have accomplished something."

Photo gallery.

Note:   President Medvedeva visited with President Obama - their seventh meeting - where, at the White House, they discussed nuclear non-proliferation, national security, and U.S.- Russian economic ties.   See White House presser here.

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