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President-elect wants to open White House to artists, scientists, poets

- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that he wants to "open up" the White House to local children and artists and that he also envisions a science lecture series to inspire youth.

Mr. Obama, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," outlined for the first time a way to showcase the "tapestry that is America."

"We want to invite kids from local schools into the White House," he said.

Mr. Obama said he wants the White House to be a forum for "elevating science once again and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about."

He said he would like to invite jazz and classical musicians and have poetry readings in the White House.

"That, I think, is going to be incredibly important, particularly because we are going through hard times, and historically what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that sense that better days are ahead. I think that our art and our culture, our science--you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House," he said.

He said he and his wife, Michelle Obama, want to "open up the White House and remind people this is the people's house."

Outgoing interim moderator Tom Brokaw asked Mr. Obama about his smoking habit. The Democrat said he had quit smoking but acknowledged there have been "times when I have fallen off the wagon."

"I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier," he said. "You will not see any violations of these [no-smoking] rules in the White House."