Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

East Room

9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast.  As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country.  We’ve got distinguished guests.  We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here.  And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers.  (Laughter.)  It never works out well.  I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Laughter.)  So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.

But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday.  And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas.  This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park.  And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know.  A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home.  Innocent people were killed.  Their families were devastated.  And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.

Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton.  Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral.  And I was grateful for his presence and his words.  He joined us at our breakfast last year.  And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.

That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful.  And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions.  Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers.  No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.  As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God.  We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.  And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head.  It’s got no place in our society.

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God.  We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still.  We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.  And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example.  And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently.  I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis.  Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast.  He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.  But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street.  He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.  Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.  And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.  When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  And there is a passage that speaks to us today:  “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”  And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines.  I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education.  You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well.  And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.

And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods.  We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens.  And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.

And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.

So I want to thank all of you who are already involved.  I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”

In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit:  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.”  (Laughter.)  The Almighty is nudging me.  I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer.  I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer.  Come on up, Joel.  (Applause.)

END
9:39 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Passover

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder.  We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday.  As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence.  And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus.  The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning.  We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation.  As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.

Political Musings February 18, 2014: Obama reaches approval rating lows in Presidents’ Day polls

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History Buzz February 17, 2014: Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

Source: Washington Post (blog), 2-17-14

Most federal holidays are clear-cut. On the Fourth of July, for example, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776….READ MORE

Political Musings February 3, 2014: Michelle Obama talks Scandal, Valentine’s Day, health care with Ryan Seacrest

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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While President Barack Obama embarked on his two-day economic opportunity policy tour, First Lady Michelle Obama went on her own official trip fundraising in California from Wednesday, Jan. 29 to Friday, January 31, 2014. While on the trip to…Continue

Political Musings December 26, 2013: Obamas honors US troops during low-key Christmas in Hawaii

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During a quiet family vacation in Hawaii, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated an annual Christmas tradition honoring American troops and military families. The President called members of the military on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 26, 2013: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Statement on Kwanzaa

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President and the First Lady on Kwanzaa

Source: WH, 12-26-13 

Michelle and I extend our best wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. Today marks the beginning of the week-long celebration of African American culture through family activities and community festivities that bring attention to Kwanzaa’s seven principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Though each principle represents the essence of this holiday, they also represent the shared values that bind us as Americans.

As families and communities across our country come together today to light the Kinara, our family sends our hopes for a prosperous and healthy new year.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPT

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season

Source: WH, 12-25-13

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  They also thanked our brave troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and reminded everyone to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to give back to our military families this year.  Both the President and First Lady said that during this holiday season, we should all come together to find ways to support our communities, continue caring for each other and keep working to be the best parents, children, friends, neighbors, and citizens we can be.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2013

THE PRESIDENTHello everybody, and happy holidays.

THE FIRST LADY: We know how busy this time of year is for everyone, so we’re not going to take much of your time.

But we did want to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a season for millions of Americans to be together with family, to continue long-held holiday traditions, and to show our gratitude to those we love.  And along the way, some of us might even watch a little basketball or eat some Christmas cookies, too.

THE FIRST LADY: Here at the White House, over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit us and look at our holiday decorations.

This year’s theme was “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”

And in every room of the house, we tried to tell a story about who we are as Americans and how we celebrate the holidays together.

And we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know – the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans, and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays.  But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family.  They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened.  So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas.  In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than at any time in the last decade.

THE FIRST LADY: And that’s something we all can be thankful for.

And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much.

And that’s why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative – to rally all Americans to support our military families in ways large and small.

And again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s the same spirit of giving that connects all of us during the holidays.  So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors.  For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And for all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens.

THE FIRST LADY: So as we look to the New Year, let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up.

THE PRESIDENT:  So Merry Christmas, everyone.  And from the two of us, as well as Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo…

THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  We wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season.

THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays everybody, and God bless.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the 32nd “Christmas in Washington” Broadcast

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at 32nd “Christmas in Washington” Broadcast

Source: WH, 12-15-13

National Building Museum
Washington, D.C.

7:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, merry Christmas, everybody!  I want to thank our host, Hugh Jackman, for keeping our safety in mind and leaving Wolverine’s claws at home.  (Laughter.)  It can’t be easy to wrap presents with those things.  (Laughter.)  Good for carving the “roast beast,” though.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank all the incredible performers for sharing their talents and their holiday spirit with us tonight.  And we appreciate the whole team at Time Warner and the National Building Museum who make it possible for our fellow Americans to enjoy these evenings’ performances.

Every year, we mark the holiday season with celebrations and good cheer.  And I should remind my girls that I like getting Christmas presents as much as anybody.  (Laughter.)  But this is also a time to remember the story of a child born to two faithful travelers on a holy night, long ago.

The sacred birth of Jesus Christ was God’s gift to man on Earth.  And through His example, He taught us that we should love the Lord, love our neighbors, as we love ourselves.  It’s a teaching that has endured for generations.  And today, it lies at the heart of my faith and that of millions of Americans, and billions around the globe.

No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message of hope and devotion that can unite all of us this holiday season.  It compels all of us to reach out and help our less fortunate citizens — our poor, our sick, our neighbors in need — and to serve those who sacrifice so much on our behalf.

And that’s why tonight’s celebration benefits the Children’s National Medical Center and all the children whose lives they touch and save — including all the little elves who are here tonight.

And that’s why, with our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm’s way, we thank them as well and their families, and we wish — this holiday season and all seasons — for peace on Earth.

To all Americans, from our family to yours — God bless you, and have a very merry Christmas.  (Applause.)

END
7:42 P.M. EST

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

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Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With a week filled with unrolling the holiday season at the White House, unveiling Christmas decorations hosting Hanukkah receptions, there was one more annual tradition President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and family had to partake in; lighting the…READ MORE

Political Musings December 7, 2013: On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With all the Christmas receptions the White House will host throughout December, at least two were dedicated to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 President Barack Obama along with First Lady Michelle Obama hosted two Hanukkah…READ MORE

Political Musings December 7, 2013: Michelle Obama unveils White House Christmas decorations with minor Sunny mishap

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Michelle Obama unveils White House Christmas decorations with minor Sunny mishap

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The holiday season is in full swing at the White House, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the White House decorations and the official holiday theme, “Gather Around: Stories of the Season,” to the…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 6, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-6-13

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia (left) and Sasha, react as they light the National Christmas Tree at a ceremony at the Ellipse in Washington on Friday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Obamas, the first family all partook in the annual tradition of lighting National Christmas Tree, Ellipse, Dec. 6, 2013; the event included a star line-up of entertainment, but was cold and rainy

The Ellipse

6:16 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas, everybody!  Well, this show is always a great way to get in the holiday spirit.  Every year, I rehearse my own little act, just in case.  But it seems like, yet again, they couldn’t find space to squeeze me into the program.  (Laughter.)  You are lucky I’m not singing.

First of all, let me thank Secretary Jewell and welcome her to her first Christmas Tree Lighting.  She is doing a great job for our national parks.  She used to run one of America’s biggest outdoor recreation companies, and now she’s charged with protecting the great outdoors for all of us.  So we appreciate her and we want to thank Neil Mulholland and the whole National Park Foundation and National Park Service team for helping to put this beautiful production together.

Let’s also give it up for Jane Lynch and all the great performers who are doing an incredible job putting us in a festive mood tonight.  (Applause.)  And to all Americans who are here today and watching at home, we are so glad to be part of this wonderful holiday tradition.

For 91 years, the National Christmas Tree has stood as a beacon of light and a promise during the holiday season.  During times of peace and prosperity, challenge and change, Americans have gathered around our national tree to kick off the holiday season and give thanks for everything that makes this time of year so magical — spending time with friends and family, and spreading tidings of peace and goodwill here at home and around the world.

And this year, we give a special measure of gratitude for Nelson Mandela, a man who championed that generosity of spirit.  (Applause.)  In his life, he blessed us with tremendous grace and unbelievable courage.  And we are all privileged to live in a world touched by his goodness.

Each Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who came into the world with only a stable’s roof to shelter Him.  But through a life of humility and the ultimate sacrifice, a life guided by faith and kindness towards others, Christ assumed a mighty voice, teaching us lessons of compassion and charity that have lasted more than two millennia.  He ministered to the poor. He embraced the outcast.  He healed the sick.  And in Him we see a living example of scripture that we ought to love others not only through our words, but also through our deeds.

It’s a message both timeless and universal — no matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all — we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to make a difference that is real and lasting.  We are our brother’s keeper.  We are our sister’s keeper.

And so in this season of generosity, let’s reach out to those who need help the most.  In this season of reflection, let’s make sure that our incredibly brave servicemembers and their families know how much we appreciate their sacrifice.  And there are several military families and servicemen and women here tonight.  We are so grateful to you for all that you do.  (Applause.)

In this season of hope, let us come together as one people, one family to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep America the land of endless opportunity and boundless optimism for which we’re so thankful.

So on behalf of Malia, Sasha, Marian, the First Lady Michelle, plus Bo and Sunny, I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season.  God bless you.  God bless our troops.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
6:16 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Evening Hanukkah reception

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by The President at evening Hanukkah reception, 12/5/2013

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody. (Applause.)  Welcome to the White House and Happy Hanukkah.  I should say that normally we just have one Hanukkah reception, but this year we’re hosting two.  We have so many friends to celebrate with we had to do it twice.  I welcomed a whole other group this afternoon.  But I want you — don’t tell them, this is actually my favorite group right here.  (Laughter.)  It’s our own little Hanukkah miracle — the party was supposed to last for one hour and it’s lasted for eight.  (Laughter.)

I want to welcome so many friends and leaders from throughout the Jewish community.  We are honored to be joined by one-third of our Supreme Court:  Justice Ginsberg — (applause) — Justice Kagan, who is here somewhere — (applause) — there she is.  And Justice Breyer is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some outstanding members of Congress, members of my administration with us, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Matt Nosanchuk.  (Applause.)  Where’s Matt?  Matt is out here somewhere.

I also want to welcome representatives from the State of Israel who are joining us.  As some of you recall, I had just an extraordinary, magical visit to Israel earlier this year and was proud to reaffirm the alliance between our two great democracies.  (Applause.)  I also had the opportunity to go to an expo where I saw the best of Israeli technology.  And there’s been such a burst of innovation and creativity that’s taking place — including, by the way, I saw a robot that served me matzah.  (Laughter.)  We were thinking about having that robot here to serve latkes, but we couldn’t get him — (laughter) — so maybe next year.

Obviously, on a note of seriousness, tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family in South Africa.  They’re grieving the loss of a man, a moral giant who embodied the dignity and the courage and the hope, and sought to bring about justice not only in South Africa, but I think to inspire millions of people around the world.  And he did that, the idea that every single human being ought to be free and that oppression can end and justice can prevail.  (Applause.)

That’s what –

JUSTICE:  Yes.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That was a Supreme Court Justice who said “yes.”  (Laughter.)  That’s what Nelson Mandela taught us, and it’s that same spirit that brings us here tonight.

And over the last eight days, Jews around the world have gathered with friends and family to light the menorah and retell the story that has been kept alive for more than 2,000 years.  And it’s a story of miracles, of a light that burned for eight days when it should have only lasted for one and a people who surmounted overwhelming odds to reclaim their historic homeland, so they could live their lives in peace and practice their religion in peace.

It’s a story that has been repeated countless times throughout Jewish history.  And as we light the candles tonight, we’re reminded that we’re still writing new chapters in that story today.  In 1922, Abraham and Hayyah Ettinger donated this menorah to their congregation in a small town that’s now the Czech Republic.  And tragically, the Ettingers — and their prayer hall — were lost in the Holocaust.

Yet even in the face of tragedy, Jewish communities around the world kept alive a light that would not be extinguished — the hope that freedom would triumph over tyranny.  And tonight, we’re honored that the menorah that once belonged to the Ettingers will be lit by two Holocaust survivors from the former Czechoslovakia — Margit Meissner and Martin Weiss.  (Applause.)  The triumph they represent and the triumph this menorah represents, the progress that it represents, the notion that we can join together here tonight reminds us that we can never take our blessings for granted and that we always need to keep working for peace and the freedom that we seek.

And that’s why we continue to stand up for our values around the world.  That’s why we stand alongside and partner with those allies who share those values, including the State of Israel.  Together with our Israeli friends, we’re determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  And we’re testing whether it’s possible through diplomacy to achieve that goal, understanding that we have to remain vigilant.

For the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.  And key parts of the program — (applause) — key parts of the program will be rolled back, even though the toughest of our sanctions remain in place.  And that’s good for the world and that’s good for Israel.  Over the coming months, we’re going to continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons once and for all.  And through it all, as always, our commitment to Israel and its security will remain iron clad and unshakeable.  (Applause.)

Building a future of security and peace is not easy.  But the story of Hanukkah, of survivors like Margit and Martin — leaders like Nelson Mandela — remind us that those who came before us overcame even greater obstacles than those that we face.  So let’s take strength from their struggles and from their sacrifice.  Let’s give thanks for miracles large and small.  Let’s recommit ourselves to building a future that shines with hope and freedom and peace.  I want to thank all of you for the contributions you’ve made to communities across the country and the many friends who have been so supportive to Michelle and myself during these years.

And with that, I want to welcome Rabbi Joshua Sherwin, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, to say a blessing.  (Applause.)

RABBI SHERWIN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  As Hanukkah formally ends this evening, it is appropriate for us to gather to remind ourselves and the world the true meaning of this holiday.  In that spirit, at this wonderful gathering, we now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings as we kindle these lights — the she-asa nissim, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world and for the leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedom in our days just as the Maccabees did in ancient ones.

The second bracha — we’ll all join together in the shehecheyanu, the simple yet powerful prayer of thanks giving for the blessing of life, for the gift of light and for the privilege of celebrating this Hanukkah together.  I invite you to join me.

(Prayer is sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They came in a little late, but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  There is only one last piece of business that I need to do.  This was prepared for us.  Some of you may be aware that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah converge only every 70,000 years.  (Laughter.)  So presumably, this is the first and the last time that this may be used.  (Laughter.)  This was prepared for us.  This is called a Menurkey.  (Laughter.)

And I just wanted to make sure that those of you who were not familiar with the Menurkey — (laughter) — that we had our own here in the White House.  (Laughter.)  Enjoy the reception, everybody.  Thank you so much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
8:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

4:21 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  Welcome to the White House.  Now, normally we just have one Hanukkah reception, but this year we are hosting two because we have so many friends to celebrate with we had to do it twice.  And I’ll be welcoming a whole other group this evening.  Don’t tell them, though, but you’re my favorite group.  (Laughter.)  It is our own little Hanukkah miracle.  The party that was supposed to last only one hour will go on for eight.  (Laughter.)  You got that one?  (Laughter.)

Now, this is the fifth time I’ve celebrated Hanukkah as President.  But this is my first Thanikkah — did I say that right?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thanksgivukkah.

THE PRESIDENT:  This intersection of two wonderful holidays has inspired a whole lot of people across America; we are delighted to welcome a few of them here tonight.

We’ve got 10-year old Asher Weintraub from New York City — where’s Asher?  (Applause.)  Asher came up with what we believe is the world’s first-ever menorah shaped like a turkey.  It is called the Menurkey.  (Laughter.)  Where is the Menurkey?  I had it just a second ago.

MRS. OBAMA:  You just had it.  Where is the Menurkey?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got to bring the Menurkey out here.  I’ll continue speaking.  You’ve got to see this.  Thank you, Asher, for your spirit and your creativity.

We’ve got Dana Gitell — where’s Dana — (applause) — who actually coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” — her sister Deborah — oh, here’s the Menurkey.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Team Thanksgivukkah is here!

THE PRESIDENT:  There we go.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to keep this in a special place.  (Laughter.)

So Dana, along with her sister Deborah, expects this term to catch on around the country.  Where are they?

MS. GITELL:  Right here.

THE PRESIDENT:  There they are.  Let’s see them.  Hey, guys.  How are you?  They’ve had a lot of fun with their project.  But there is a serious side to it because they’ve said they always express their gratitude to America, a place where no matter who you are, you can always celebrate your faith.  And that same spirit is reflected in the menorah that we’re about to light.

It was designed by Manfred Anson, who was born in Germany in 1922.  And as a child he lived through the horrors of Kristallnacht, and later lost a brother to the Holocaust.  But Manfred escaped.  And like the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story, he fought against tyranny, serving in the Australian army during World War II.  And like the Maccabees, after the war was over he sought a place where he could live his life and practice his religion free from fear.  So for Manfred and millions like him, that place was ultimately America.

And Manfred passed away last year, but during his life he designed this special menorah, with a model of the Statue of Liberty at the base of each candle — I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.  In a few moments, all nine lady liberties will be shining, a reminder that our country endures as a beacon of hope and of freedom wherever you come from, whatever your faith.

And that beacon stays bright because of families like the one that will join me in lighting the menorah this evening –- the Schmitters.  Now, dad, Jake, could not be here because he’s deployed in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  But we are joined by his wonderful wife Drew, his daughters Lainey and Kylie — go ahead and wave, guys.  (Laughter.)  So Drew, Lainey, Kylie, I want you to know how proud we are of not only your dad, but also of you.  And we’re so grateful for the sacrifices that you make on behalf of our country every single day.

And tonight, we give thanks to all the men and women in uniform and for their families.  They make tremendous sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our freedom and our security — not only of us, but our allies and friends around the world, including our friends in the State of Israel.  And the commitment and the courage of our men and women in uniform and their families is itself a miracle for which we give thanks.

As the Festival of Lights draws to a close, let’s take one last chance to think about all the miracles we’ve been lucky enough to experience in our own lives.  There are small miracles, like the invention of the Menurkey.  (Laughter.)  And then there are big miracles like the chance to be a part of this great country.

The first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving won’t overlap again for more than 70,000 years.  So it’s safe to say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event — (laughter) — unless there’s a really — a scientific breakthrough that we don’t know about.  (Laughter.)  But while we never may see again another Thanksgivukkah, I know that if we can show the same resilience as Manfred Anson and the same resourcefulness as young Asher, as well as Dana and Deborah, and the same strength as military families like the Schmitters, we will be blessed with many more miracles for years to come.

So thank you, everybody.  Happy Hanukkah.  And now I want to welcome Rabbi Amanda Lurer, a lieutenant in our Navy, to say a blessing.  (Applause.)

MS. LURER:  Hanukkah formally ends tonight as the sun goes down this evening.  But it will always be appropriate for us as we gather to remind ourselves and the world of the meaning of this holiday.  So in that spirit, in this wonderful gathering, we now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings.  And as we kindle the lights, we’ll say — the first one is the she-asa nissim blessing, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world, and for leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedoms in our days as in the day of the Maccabees.

The second blessing is shehecheyanu, that simple yet powerful prayer of thanksgiving, for the blessing of life, the gift of light and the privilege to celebrate Hanukkah together.  Please join me.

(Prayer is sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you all again for being here.  We hope you have a wonderful celebration.  And we can’t stay to party because I got to go back to work.  (Laughter.)  But I do want to make sure that we get a chance to shake hands with all of you briefly as we go by.  And again, we just want to thank the Schmitters, and make sure to tell dad we’re proud of him, too.

MS. SCHMITTER:  Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Enjoy, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:31 P.M. EST

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