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Intl. Jazz Day: Obama’s Opening Remarks

President Barack Obama’s opening remarks from the International Jazz Day Global Concert, held Friday, April 29, on the South Lawn of the White House

Good evening, everybody! Welcome to the White House! Good-looking crowd. For five years, International Jazz Day’s main event has been celebrated around the world, from Istanbul, to Osaka, to Paris. So we couldn’t be prouder that, this year, jazz comes back home to America. I want to thank UNESCO, its Director General Irina Bokova, and the Thelonious Monk Institute for helping us to put on this unbelievable event. I also want to thank someone who has been a great friend to me and Michelle-UNESCO ambassador, legendary jazz musician, and all-around cool cat Herbie Hancock. And our emcee for the evening, who some people say has a pretty good voice, Morgan Freeman.

In 1964 Dizzy Gillespie ran for President-this is a true story-and he said, “When I am elected President of the United States, my first executive order will be to change the name of the White House to the Blues House.” So tonight, we’re going to do right by Dizzy. We are turning this place into the Blues House. And before anybody calls this executive overreach, or some sort of power-grab, I want to clarify that I did not issue a new executive order. I just invited all my favorite jazz musicians to play in my backyard, which is one of the great perks of the job.

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