After another hard week, President Barack Obama found some unusual words of encouragement last night from Patti LaBelle.
“Baby, you’ve got swag!” she told him, praising his “class” and “elegance.”
In kelly green and with a sleek bob, LaBelle joined the divas in the East Room for “In Performance at the White House,” a concert series celebrating American musical genres.
Last night’s tribute was to “the women of soul.”
” As someone who always shares this house with brilliant, creative, talented, somewhat stubborn women,” the president joked, ” I think Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor a few more.”
Obama was joined by his “stubborn” wife, Michelle, who sat in the front row with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Not far away, wrapped in fur, sat Aretha Franklin, who left abruptly shortly after arriving.
A White House aide said she had to go to “her holding room” but would be returning.
“My advice to everyone tonight is simple: Hang on, ” cautioned the president. “The queen of soul is in the building. If she blows your mind, it will be Okay. “
Other performers included Melissa Etheridge, Ariana Grand, and Tessanne Chin.
There were more than a few giggles when Obama flubbed the spelling of Franklin’s most famous song: “Respect,” leaving out the first “e.”
(The press pool reporter, our colleague Lesley Clark of McClatchy Newspapers, caught this too, noting that Obama “got R-E-S-P-E-C-T a little twisted” — though White House stenographers covered the commander-in-chief with the official distribution of his remarks afterward, putting that first E back in place.)
Billionaire David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group chatted with Holder before taking his seat between two Rockefellers: Jay, the retiring Democratic senator from West Virginia, and his wife, Sharon, a PBS executive.
PBS will broadcast the program on April 7.