The Sphinx Organization was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama on Nov. 15. The Detroit-based organization, which strives to “transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts,” was awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award at the White House in Washington, D.C.

A quartet from the organization was selected to perform at the ceremony, and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“This is why we do what we do, because if anybody were to walk past these kids on the street, they would make assumptions about what they can do and who they can be,” Michelle Obama said post-performance. “And we do that all the time to each other and to our kids. We put them in boxes . . . and place them with lids on them and we don’t let them out. Because of our issues. All of these young people have some kind of potential in them and if we don’t invest in them as a nation, regardless of where they come from or what color they are, if we don’t invest in them, we lose.

“Imagine this talent bottled up in these kids—unexplored, uninvested. There are millions of kids like this in this country who do not have the resources to become everything that they could be and shame on us if we can’t do this better. Fortunately, these programs are doing the job that sometimes the bigger society fails to do.”

First Lady Obama concluded the ceremony by praising the quartet’s performance as “phenomenal” and “amazing,” and left them with the parting words, “There is nothing that any of you can’t do.”

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