WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said a program of jazz and poetry at the White House Tuesday was intended to "celebrate the power of words and music."
"An Evening of Poetry, Music and the Spoken Word" -- held in the East Room -- featured appearances by poet Joshua Brandon Bennett, writer-poet-actress Mayda del Valle, author Michael Chabon, pianist Eric Lewis and actor James Earl Jones, among others.
Jones performed a selection from Shakespeare's "Othello" for an audience that included filmmaker Spike Lee and ABC News talk show host George Stephanopoulos, The New York Times reported.
"We're here to celebrate the power of words and music to help us appreciate beauty and also to understand pain," Obama told the audience.
First lady Michelle Obama said she had wanted to have the program at the White House "from Day One! … to stand in this house … and hear some poetry and the spoken word."
"To be able to go in the White House and to represent my grandmother and my ancestors, it really means a lot," del Valle told the newspaper. "It's a generation of women that don't often get heard, you know, these old Puerto Rican women that no one ever really thinks about."
The program was taped for later telecast over HBO.