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Inside Politics: First lady gives awards to after-school programs

- - Monday, November 19, 2012

Michelle Obama cited the "transformative power of the arts" Monday as she presented national arts and humanities awards to 12 community-based, after-school programs that reach underserved youth.

The programs — including those focused on at-risk children — use music, dance, poetry, debate, theater and other outlets to inspire creative development among young people.

The first lady said at a White House ceremony that the programs teach children skills such as teamwork and self-expression that are also critical in the classroom and workplace.

Mrs. Obama thanked educators, leaders and performers for "pushing and inspiring our kids" and "teaching them to believe in themselves."

The 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are hosted by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with three national cultural agencies.

EDUCATION

Officials look to Obama's second term for answers

Loose ends and thorny partisan tensions on education await the next Congress during President Obama's second term.

First up is the fiscal cliff, which will slash billions from the Education Department's budget if lawmakers don't act this year.

The administration isn't saying what its second-term agenda will entail, but education advocates say Mr. Obama will probably focus on early childhood programs and higher education.

Needing action are expiring student loan interest rates and long-term sustainability problems with Pell Grants.

Congress and Mr. Obama will also have to figure out what to do about No Child Left Behind. Mr. Obama has been granting waivers that give states flexibility on performance targets.

Mr. Obama's Race to the Top competition, teacher evaluations and the Common Core standards could also be flashpoints during the president's second term.

HOUSE

Lawmaker plans to make most of six-week stint

Driving from Michigan in his Ford F150 pickup truck, David Alan Curson arrived in Washington a week ago. He set up an office the previous Sunday, was sworn in as a congressman Tuesday and by Friday had logged his first votes and given his first floor speech — one that stretched a bit past the one minute he'd been allotted.

The 64-year-old Democrat has no time to waste. In six weeks, he'll be gone.

In Congress' packed lame-duck session, Mr. Curson is a curiosity.

He was one of four members of the House sworn in this past week to fill a partial term, but he's the only one who didn't win a full, two-year term to go with the temporary gig. In January, he'll drive his truck home and be replaced by incoming Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, the Republican that Mr. Curson beat out for the partial term.

Mr. Curson did not run for a full term, only opting to run in the special election after other Democrats took a pass.

The seat was left vacant when Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican, quit Congress during the summer after he failed to qualify for the ballot because of questions about petition signatures.

Mr. Curson, a burly, bearded ex-Marine and United Autoworkers union representative, says he didn't even realize for sure that he'd won until midafternoon the day after the election.

"It kind of stunned everybody, but immediately the phone just came off the hook," he said. Party leaders called offering "all the help they could to get me off the ground and running."

TENNESSEE

Balcony where MLK was slain opens to museum-goers

MEMPHIS — The balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis is now open for visitors for the first time since the National Civil Rights Museum opened in 1991.

The museum says visitors on Monday were able to stand on the spot where King was fatally shot on April 4, 1968.

The museum stands on the grounds of the former Lorraine Motel, where King stayed while supporting a sanitation workers strike. It includes various exhibits about the history of the civil rights movement and allows visitors to see the room where King stayed.

The balcony will be open temporarily, likely closing around the time when renovations to the museum end in 2014.

From wire dispatches and staff reports