"She spent a lot of time developing her craft.  She spent a lot of time practicing and working and trying out for things and having people tell her 'no,' 'no thank you,' 'you're not good enough, you're not pretty enough.'  Could you imagine somebody telling Kerry that she wasn't pretty enough, she wasn't tall enough, she was too short?" Obama said.

"The important thing is, do you get back up when you fail?"

After speaking to the students, Obama and Washington visited individual classrooms.

The first lady joined in a game of freeze dance with one class to James Brown's "Gonna Have A Funky Good Time," dancing with the students to the music and then freezing when the song stopped.

Washington adopted the Savoy school under The Turnaround Arts Initiative, which is part of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The actress is a member of the committee of which the first lady is honorary chairwoman.

She is one of several celebrities, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Forest Whitaker and Yo-Yo Ma, who have adopted a school under the program.

Washington is close to the Obamas. She was a major fundraiser for the campaign, spoke at the Democratic National Convention and attended inauguration festivities.