While the idea of bringing poets and rappers to The White House for an evening of poetry was a lovely one, the execution of the event left many stewing. On Wednesday night, Michelle Obama invited many poets and musicians for an evening of poetry at the White House.
Common Stirs Controversy
The night went off without a hitch except for one name on the guest list – Common. This Grammy Award-winning rapper and actor set off a slew of complaints, mostly by Republicans. Common is known for spinning poems that are socially and politically charged.Karl Rove, who worked in The White House with President George W. Bush labeled Common a “thug” and explained on the Fox New Channel that the rapper actually advocated assassinating Bush and that he called for violence against the police. He said that the fact that the White House invited this particular person, “speaks volumes about President Obama and the White House staff.” Rove was referring to a rap that Common used that included the line “Burn a Bush cos for peace he no push no button.”
Common, who was born Lonnie Rashin Lynn Jr. wasn’t daunted by the criticism. He tweeted about the night, “So apparently Sarah Palin and Fox News doesn’t like me.” Later on Facebook he also wrote, “Politics is politics and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I respect that. The one thing that shouldn’t be questioned is my support for the police officers and troops that protect us every day. Peace yall!During his performance on Wednesday night, Common was well behaved and mild. He started his rap using some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and said that he came to the White House with “love on my sleeve.” He ended his rap by saying “one King’s dream, he was able to Barack us.”
Michelle Obama stayed above the criticism and did not common on it directly. White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the White House’s decision to invite Common. He explained that Obama has spoken out very clearly against violent and misogynistic music lyrics and that he strongly supports law enforcement. He also said that “One of the things the president appreciates is the work Mr. Lynn has done with children, especially in Chicago, trying to get them to focus on poetry as opposed to some of the negative influences of life on the street.”Other invited performers included former poets laureate Billy Collins and Rita Dove; musicians such as Aimee Mann, and Elizabeth Alexander who delivered her own poem at Obama’s inauguration.