(NEW YORK) — With the U.N. assembly underway in midtown Manhattan, first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday retreated to Harlem with 49 spouses of visiting heads of state and one official girlfriend, the domestic partner of French president Francois Hollande, for a tour and luncheon at the Studio Museum.
In remarks to the group during the lunch, Mrs. Obama spoke about the importance of Harlem in American social history, calling it the “cultural heart of the black community in the United States” and a place that has inspired international unity.
“This neighborhood drew some of the greatest African American artists this country has ever known,” she said. “Painters like Aaron Douglas, writers like Langston Hughes…musicians like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington. Many of these men and women left the south just a couple of generations after the end of slavery and they were desperate to find a place where they could explore their talents and express their ideas freely.”
“In a way this neighborhood is a thread that connects us all here today,” Obama said, “no matter where we are from or which language we speak.”
The first lady also promoted efforts to improve the lives of women and girls around the world, telling her guests to “share ideas for how we can all give our children the bright futures they deserve.”
“Don’t be shy, make sure that you talk to the ladies at your table about the great work that you are doing in your countries because you are all doing some wonderfully powerful work,” Obama said. “We all have so much to offer one another, and so much to learn and so much support we can gain from each other.”
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