first lady

5 Takeaways from Tuesday's White House Celebration of Gospel Music

Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

First lady Michelle Obama welcomes students to the White House on April 14, 2015. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

First lady Michelle Obama hosted a discussion with musicians and students on gospel music at the White House on April 14, praising gospel’s role as “a ray of hope” in American history.

“Gospel music has really played such an important role in our country’s history,” she told more than 100 students gathered in the State Dining Room, “from the spirituals sung by slaves, to the anthems that became the soundtrack of the civil rights movement, and to the hymns that millions of Americans sing every single day in churches all across the country.”

Here are some of the lessons learned during the 75-minute event, where Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli interviewed a panel of singers and songwriters ahead of a star-studded concert that will air on PBS on June 26 as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series.

1. Gospel music is personal for the first lady.

“I’m really thrilled that we’re really focusing on gospel,” Obama said of the series that has previously featured classical, country, and soul music.

“It’s something that I wanted to do since we started.”

Is Michelle Obama a 'Missional' Christian?

 SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages

First Lady Michelle Obama signs her book last month. SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages

With approval ratings a good 15 points higher than her husband, there are probably some strategists wishing they could run the Michelle Obama re-election campaign right now. While the White House legal counsel looks into the constitutionality of a husband/wife switch, the campaign is trying to put her popularity to work.

Last week, the First Lady spoke to the quadrennial General Conference of the African American Methodist Episcopal Church. While the speech was a get-out-the-vote plug, it also shed an interesting light on both her personal faith and the theological tradition of the nation’s oldest independent, predominantly African-American congregations. 

In reading the First Lady’s speech, I was intrigued to see a strong emphasis on some concepts I often associate with “missional” churches. 

Afternoon Links of Awesomeness

For those about to rock-upy, Ben & Jerry salute you! Jesus-ween? Mobama sets her sights on jumping-jack record. And then they came for Grover... Scottish golfer wins his own weight in ham. (What? No haggis?) FoxNews unaired #OccupyWallStreet interview: Fair and (un)Balanced? Jobs memorialized in MacBook parts. Video game lets you try to balance your budget on a poverty income. Feist wows with new album "Metals." And some smarty-pants greetings for this Columbus Day.