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First lady Michelle Obama says the White House is a place where people should feel free to speak their minds. To that end, she and President Barack Obama welcomed actors, poets and writers to the East Room on Tuesday.

The Obamas hosted a night of poetry reading and the spoken word featuring James Earl Jones, Esperanza Spalding and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The night also included musical interludes, modern poetry and excerpts from Shakespeare.

Mrs. Obama says the administration wants to make the White House available to everyone. She also wants performers to share their experiences.

The president says such performances can express beauty and pain.

Students from Washington-area colleges joined the Obamas around small tables.

Watch the Performance