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How the Oscars Landed the First Lady as a Presenter

One of the biggest surprises of this year’s Oscarcast was the first-ever appearance of a First Lady to present an award, as Michelle Obama announced “Argo” the winner from the White House.

Obama, wearing a Naeem Khan dress, had appeared at a dinner for the National Governors Assn. meeting taking place this week. She presented the award from the Diplomatic Room, fitting given the subject matter of “Argo.”

Kristina Schake, the first lady’s communications director to the First Lady, said in a statement, “The Academy Awards approached the First Lady about being a part of the ceremony. As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all – especially our young people – with their passion, skill and imagination.”

The White House also tweeted out a photo via official photographer Pete Souza.

The First Lady’s appearance was unusual, although Ronald Reagan gave a taped statement to the Oscars in 1981 and Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the gathering in 1941.

What would have been awkward is if “Zero Dark Thirty” won best picture, as the cooperation that the White House gave to the filmmakers came under fire from congressional Republicans, a prelude to further controversy over its depiction of torture.

Instead, the first lady delivered a statement about the power of movies to “lift our spirits and broaden our minds and transport us to people we have never imagined.”

She called the work of filmmakers “vitally important work” and added, “Every day, through engagement in the arts, our children learn to open their imagination, to dream just a little bigger. And to strive every day to reach those dreams.”

The first lady hosted a screening and Q and A with the makers of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” two weeks ago, and President Obama hosted a screening of “Lincoln” in November. But they also have a strong connection to “Argo” via executive producer George Clooney, a longtime supporter who hosted a fundraiser for Obama last May that helped raise almost $15 million.