Wolf Blitzer was in the house. Emcee was Morgan Freeman.
The president and first lady were introduced at 7:31 p.m., and Mr. Obama made brief remarks. After five years of the event being celebrated abroad, he said, "We couldn't be prouder that this year, jazz comes back to America." The president said it's a true story that jazz great Dizzy Gillespie ran for president in 1964 and said he would make an executive order to change the White House into the Blues House. "Tonight, we're going to do right by Dizzy. We are going to turn this place into the Blues House." The president was reading off a Teleprompter at the back of the room on the riser. He spoke of how he developed a love of jazz as a child, because it involved one of the few memories of his father, when they spent a month together in 1971.
"One of the things he did was take me to my first jazz concert, to see Dave Brubeck. I didn't realize at the time the impact that it had, but the world that concert opened up for a 10-year-old boy was spectacular. I was hooked." Jazz, he said, "is in so many ways the story of our nation's progress." "There is something fearless and true about jazz. This is truth-telling music." Then Aretha Franklin took the stage, in a shimmering gold gown. She sat at a grand piano and played "A Song for You," and received a standing ovation.
Pool was ushered out as Morgan Freeman began to speak.