Political Headlines December 23, 2012: Presidet Barack Obama Golfing on Hawaii Vacation with Pal Arrested in Prostitution Sting

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Golfing in Hawaii with Pal Arrested in Prostitution Sting

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-23-12

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Taking a break from the fiscal cliff negotiations, President Obama spent the first day of his holiday vacation golfing with friends and aides, including longtime pal Bobby Titcomb, who was arrested last year on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute.

After arriving in Hawaii late Friday night, the president spent Saturday morning at his family’s vacation residence along the shores of Kailua, a quiet town on a stretch of beach on the east end of Oahu.

Shortly before noon, the president made the trip to the Kailua Marine Corps Base, where he hit the links at the Kaneohe Clipper course….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 22, 2012: Weekly Address: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama Wish Special Holiday Homecoming for Troops

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Weekly Address: Obamas Wish Special Holiday Homecoming for Troops

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-22-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

As the first holiday season with the U.S. military out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, President Obama wishes a special homecoming on American troops in his weekly address.

“This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college — and making room for all that laundry they bring with them. Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive, and uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit,” he said. “And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.”

Joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, the two waxed on Americans reuniting with their loved ones, including those coming from abroad….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 22, 2012: President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama’s Weekly Address Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

Source: WH, 12-21-12

In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thank our brave troops and their families for their service. The President and First Lady ask the American people to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families, and say that we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and thanked our brave troops and their families for their service.  The President and First Lady asked the American people to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families, and said that we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 22, 2012

THE PRESIDENTHi everybody.  This weekend, as you gather with family and friends, Michelle and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.

THE FIRST LADY:  We both love this time of year.  And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House.  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible.

This month, more than 90,000 people have come through the White House to see the holiday decorations.  And our theme for this year’s holiday season was “Joy to All” – a reminder to appreciate the many joys of the holidays: the joy of giving…the joy of service…and, of course, the joy of homecomings. 

THE PRESIDENTThat’s right.  This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them.  Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive.  And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit.

THE FIRST LADY:  That’s what makes this season so special – getting to spend time with the people we love most.

THE PRESIDENTAnd this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.

So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear.

THE FIRST LADY:  And remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them.  Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments.  And let’s not forget about our military kids, moving from base to base – and school to school – every few years, and stepping up to help out at home when mom or dad is away.

Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country.  That’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces – an effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans and military families.  Just go to joiningforces.gov to find out how you can show your gratitude for their service.

THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s what this season is all about.  For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.  To give of ourselves.  To be our brother’s keeper.  To be our sister’s keeper.  But those ideas are not just part of our faith.  They’re part of all faiths.  And they unite us as Americans.

THE FIRST LADY:  In this country, we take care of each other.  And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need.

THE PRESIDENTThat’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation.  And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.

THE FIRST LADY:  So thank you for all that you’ve done this year on behalf of your fellow Americans.

THE PRESIDENT: And on behalf of my favorite Americans – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – Merry Christmas, everybody.

THE FIRST LADY:  Happy holidays.

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: A Sassy Merry Christmas ‘I’m Stuck Here in Washington’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

A Sassy Merry Christmas from Mitch McConnell: ‘I’m Stuck Here in Washington’

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

It’s a Christmas greeting with a few digs reflecting the frustration over the fiscal cliff stalemate from Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

In a video just posted to his You Tube page, the Minority Leader, sitting in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree says, “Hello I’m Senator Mitch McConnell. I’m stuck here in Washington trying to prevent my fellow Kentuckians having to shell out more money to Uncle Sam next year, but I wanted to take just a minute to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.”

McConnell then instructs Americans to drink eggnog, sing carols and enjoy their time together – because Washington has all the arguing covered already.

“So pour some eggnog, turn up the Christmas music and enjoy your family. No need to argue with your family, there is plenty of arguing in Washington to go around. Merry Christmas everyone.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 13, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the White House Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Hanukkah at the White House: A Menorah that Survived Sandy

Source: WH, 12-14-12

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer at the 2012 Hanukkah reception, Dec. 13, 2012President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer participate in the Menorah lighting during the Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 13, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah. In his remarks, the President remembered the enduring story of resilience and optimism that is the essence of this holiday:

Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple.  So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed.  And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people.  And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God — the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight.  That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.

To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees’ everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.The celebration this year was a tribute to more recent examples of resilience and optimism as well. The 90-year-old menorah used in the ceremony came from the Temple Israel synagogue in Long Beach, New York, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It served as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction.

This was not the first year that Rabbi Larry Bazer, the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, was asked to light the candles at the White House Hanukkah celebration. Last year, Rabbi Bazer was unable to attend because he was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers. As President Obama noted, “he had a pretty good excuse” for turning down that invitation.

Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception

East Room

7:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good evening.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you for coming to the White House tonight to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah.  (Applause.)  It is truly an honor to host so many leaders from the Jewish community this evening.  Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is here.  (Applause.)  And obviously I know I speak for all of us when we say that America’s support for our friend and ally Israel remains unshakeable during these difficult times.  (Applause.)

Many members of Congress and local government are here, and we want to welcome you.  We are graced by two Supreme Court Justices, several members of my Cabinet and administration — so, everybody, be on your best behavior.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the incredibly talented members of the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir for their service.  (Applause.)  They are incredible young people.  Obviously we’re in awe of their service to our nation, and for sharing a couple of Hanukkah favorites with the Marine band.

And finally, I’d like to recognize the rabbis and lay leaders who traveled from all over the country to be here.  Thank you for sharing the holiday with us.  We’re grateful.  (Applause.)

So tonight, as we gather to light the sixth candle of Hanukkah, we remember an enduring story of resilience and optimism.  Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple.  So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed.  And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people.  And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God — the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight.  That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.

To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees’ everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.

The menorah that we’re using tonight and the man who will light it are both powerful symbols of that spirit.  Six weeks ago, the Temple Israel Synagogue in Long Beach, New York, was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  But this 90-year-old menorah survived, and I am willing to bet it will survive another 90 years, and another 90 years after that.  So tonight, it shines as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction — a reminder of resilience and hope and the fact that we will be there for them as they recover.

So I want to thank Rabbi David Bauman for sharing your congregation’s blessed menorah with us.  We pray that its light will carry victims of Sandy and all Americans to a brighter tomorrow.  And we’re confident that it will.  (Applause.)

And we’re confident that it will because for centuries the menorah has served as a source of inspiration and courage for all those dreaming of a better future, and Rabbi Larry Bazer knows that as well as anybody.

Now, we had hoped that Rabbi would join us to light the candles last year, but he wasn’t able to make it.  We don’t get that very often.  Usually when we invite people, they come.   (Laughter.)   But we gave him another chance because he had a pretty good excuse the first time.

Last Hanukkah, Rabbi Bazer — and he happens to be the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard — was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he lit a custom-built electric menorah in the central square of Camp Phoenix in Kabul.  As the only rabbi in Afghanistan at the time, he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers, reminding them of the Maccabees’ perseverance, and bringing them faith to guide their challenging work.

Even in the face of great danger, the message of Hanukkah endures.  And it continues to inspire those all over the world who stand for freedom and opportunity, and we could not be more grateful to Rabbi Bazer for his extraordinary service to our country as well as his service to his congregation.  (Applause.)

The Rabbi stands here alongside this menorah both as a symbol of hope and perseverance and determination and duty.  And it also reminds us that there are sacrifices that are involved in defending our values.  Obviously we’re grateful to the men and women who serve our nation so nobly and so bravely all around the world.  (Applause.)   And our thoughts and prayers in this holiday season especially go out to those who are away from home during the holiday season.

But obviously the lessons of Hanukkah also apply to those of us who should be serving in different ways in our own communities, in our work places, in our own families as citizens of this nation; that we have obligations to one another, that we’re stronger together than we are apart, that we have to think about future generations and not just the present.

Those are all values that we have to also make sacrifices to defend.  And so I want to welcome all of you.  I’m honored to be with you.  I see a lot of good friends around the room.  But at this time I’d like to invite Rabbi Bazer to join me to light the White House menorah.

(The blessing is offered and the menorah is lighted.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Have a wonderful evening, everybody.  We’re going to go around and try and shake some hands.

END
7:57 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 9, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Christmas in Washington — Obama Family Attends Christmas in Washington

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The Obama Family Attends Christmas in Washington

Source: WH, 12-10-12

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson listen as Megan Hilty performsPresident Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson listen as Megan Hilty performs at the “Christmas in Washington” concert taping in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last night, President Obama spoke at Christmas in Washington. The concert, hosted by Conan O’Brien, featured performances including Diana Ross, Demi Lovato, Megan Hilty and others, was held to support the Children’s National Medical Center.

“Tonight is a chance to get in the Christmas spirit, to spread some joy and sing along with artists who have much better voices than we do,” President Obama said. “But it’s also a chance to make a real difference in the lives of some very brave young people being treated at Children’s National Medical Center.  Many of these kids and their parents are going through tough times right now, and your support helps give them a reason to hope –- not just during the holidays, but all year round.”

Diana Ross performs at the "Christmas in Washington"Diana Ross performs at the “Christmas in Washington” concert taping in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama said that Christmas is a time to share the blessings we have have with those who have less, especially those who are “spending this holiday in a hospital bed, or a shelter, or protecting our freedom on a battlefield far from home.”

Learn more about holidays at the White House

Remarks by the President at Christmas in Washington

The National Building Museum
Washington, D.C.

7:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody, and let’s give it up for our host –- the tallest elf I’ve ever seen –- Conan O’Brien.  (Laughter and applause.)  We’re also grateful to all the outstanding performers, the choirs, the glee clubs who are sharing their tremendous talents with us.

Tonight is a chance to get in the Christmas spirit; to spread some joy and sing along with artists who have much better voices than we do.  (Laughter.)  But it’s also a chance to make a real difference in the lives of some very brave young people being treated at Children’s National Medical Center.  Many of these kids and their parents are going through tough times right now, and your support helps give them a reason to hope –- not just during the holidays, but all year round.

And that’s really what Christmas is all about.  Each of us is incredibly blessed in so many ways.  But those blessings aren’t just meant to be enjoyed — they’re meant to be used and shared with those who have less.  The Christian faith teaches us that on this day a child was born so that we might have eternal life.  And at the heart of many of the world’s great religions is the idea that we’re all better off when we treat our brothers and sisters with the same love and compassion that we want for ourselves.

So yes, tonight is about Conan and Diana Ross and Santa and all the other talented folks on this stage.  But it’s also about the Americans who are spending this holiday in a hospital bed, or a shelter, or protecting our freedom on a battlefield far from home.  Let’s keep them in our prayers, and follow Christ’s calling to love one another as He has loved all of us.

Merry Christmas, everybody.  God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.

END
7:39 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 6, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony — Obama Family Flips the Switch on the National Christmas Tree

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The Obama Family Flips the Switch on the National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-7-12

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree (December 6, 2012)President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson participate in the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Last night, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, made their way to the Ellipse, just south of the White House, where they helped to light the National Christmas Tree.

“We’ve been lighting the National Christmas Tree for 90 years now,” the President said. “In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we’ve always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle.”

The President used the occasion to describe another Christmas tree — one he saw in a Staten Island neighborhood, devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

“This evening, in Midland Beach, New York, on a street lined with houses and businesses devastated by the storm, a great big Christmas tree shines out of the darkness,” he said. “Just a couple of weeks ago, as impacted families were still seeking some sense of getting back to normal, one local nursery donated the tree, another chipped in for the lights and a star, and 70-year-old Tom Killeen and his longtime buddies from the area planted it at the end of the street, overlooking the town beach. As Tom says, the tree has one message: ‘It’s Christmas time, not disaster time.’ “

The President urged Americans to keep the communities affected by the storm, as well as all those less fortunate, in our hearts this holiday season.

First Lady Michelle Obama reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Rico Rodriguez (December 6, 2012)First Lady Michelle Obama reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Rico Rodriguez to children onstage during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree event on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

With the 28-foot blue spruce lit up in white lights and topped with a yellow star, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Washington.

Watch the video here.

Remarks by the President at the National Christmas Tree Lighting

Washington, D.C.

6:30 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas, everybody!  (Applause.)   Michelle told me to be brief because she wants to hear music.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, Secretary Salazar, for that generous introduction and for your dedication to protecting our natural resources.  I want to thank Neil Mulholland and the whole National Park Foundation and the National Park Service team for helping to put on this beautiful production.

Let’s give a big hand to Neil Patrick Harris — (applause) — and this evening’s performers for putting on a fantastic show.  And I want to also thank all of you for joining us to celebrate this great American tradition.

As has been mentioned, we’ve been lighting the National Christmas Tree for 90 years now.  In times of war and peace, triumph and tragedy, we’ve always come together to rejoice in the Christmas miracle.  But our tree has been having a hard time recently — this is our third one in as many years.  Our longstanding tree was lost in a storm, and then its replacement didn’t take hold.  It just goes to show, nobody’s job is safe here in Washington.  (Laughter.)  But I feel good about this one.  It was planted just days before Hurricane Sandy, and it made it through the storm in one piece.

Now, we know that some of our neighbors to the north saw a more ruthless and destructive Sandy.  And this holiday season is especially difficult for families who lost everything in the storm.  But it’s also a time for us to be grateful for the heroism and perseverance of ordinary men and women in the storm’s path who’ve showed us that Americans will always be stronger than the challenges that we face.  And as I did before Thanksgiving, I can’t help but tell a story of their enduring holiday spirit.

This evening, in Midland Beach, New York, on a street lined with houses and businesses devastated by the storm, a great big Christmas tree shines out of the darkness.  Just a couple of weeks ago, as impacted families were still seeking some sense of getting back to normal, one local nursery donated the tree, another chipped in for the lights and a star, and 70-year-old Tom Killeen and his longtime buddies from the area planted it at the end of the street, overlooking the town beach.  As Tom says, the tree has one message: “It’s Christmas time, not disaster time.”

And Tom is right.  For centuries, the message of Christmas — of peace and goodwill to all — has guided millions of people around the world through good times but also through bad times.  This year is no different.  It’s a chance for all of us to open our hearts to the least fortunate among us.  It’s a chance to remember what Christ taught us — that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, and that the simplest gifts bring the greatest joy.  And it’s a chance to count our blessings and give thanks to those outstanding service members who bravely defend them.

For Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs, may this holiday season remind us of the spirit of brotherhood and generosity that unites us as citizens.  And may every tree from Midland Beach to this Ellipse and all across the country shine as a beacon of hope for all Americans.

So on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Grandma and Bo, I’d like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and joyful holiday season.

God bless you, and God bless America.  (Applause.)

(Christmas carols are sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, everybody, I just want to say, can we give a huge round of applause to these outstanding performers?  (Applause.)  To our outstanding choir.  (Applause.)

Neil, are we going out with a song?

MR. HARRIS:  Sure, let’s sing one.  You start it.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no — (laughter) — I just wasn’t sure.  I know this program is taped so we can always edit this out.  (Laughter.)  Was there something else that we were supposed to be singing?  Santa Clause Is Coming To Town — that’s what I thought.  Let’s hit it!

(Everyone sings “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town.)

END
6:45 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 2, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception — President and First Lady Michelle Obama Welcome 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President and Mrs. Obama Welcome 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees to the White House

Source: WH, 12-3-12

President and Mrs. Obama attend the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors, Dec. 2, 2012.  President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President and Mrs. Obama last night welcomed a late night television host, an actor, a ballerina, a blues guitarist, and a rock band to the White House for the annual reception saluting the Kennedy Center Honorees.

As he introduced David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman, Natalia Makarova, Buddy Guy, and the surviving members of Led Zeppelin to a crowd gathered in the East Room, the President described the honorees as “some extraordinary people who have no business being on the same stage together.”

Each year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrates individuals who have made a lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television — and the primary criterion in the selection process is excellence.

Prior to the event celebrating their achievement held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the President took a moment to highlight their contributions to American culture, and the important role the arts play in our national identity:

So we’ve got Buddy Guy. We’ve got Dustin Hoffman. We’ve got David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, Led Zeppelin each of us can remember a moment when the people on this stage touched our lives. Maybe they didn’t lead us to become performers ourselves. But maybe they inspired us to see things in a new way, to hear things differently, to discover something within us or to appreciate how much beauty there is in the world.

It’s that unique power that makes the arts so important. We may not always think about the importance of music or dance or laughter to the life of this nation, but who would want to imagine America without it? That’s why we celebrate artists like the ones here tonight. And that’s why, in this season of joy and thanksgiving, they have earned our deepest appreciation.

 

President Obama delivers remarks during the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, Dec. 2, 2012.President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Kennedy Center Honors Reception in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2012. Honorees seated onstage from left: three members of the British rock group Led Zeppelin: singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, and keyboardist and bassist John Paul Jones; ballerina Natalia Makarova, television comedian David Letterman; actor Dustin Hoffman; and Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Watch the President’s full remarks at the White House reception

Remarks by the President at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception

Source: WH, 12-2-12 

East Room

5:31 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody, please have a seat.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Well, good evening, everybody.  You all look lovely.  (Laughter.)  Welcome to the White House on a night when I am nowhere close to being the main attraction.

Thank you, David Rubenstein, Michael Kaiser and the Kennedy Center trustees, and everyone who has worked so hard to uphold President Kennedy’s commitment to supporting the arts.  I also want to recognize another of President Kennedy’s amazing legacies, and that is his wonderful daughter Caroline, who is here tonight.  (Applause.)

None of this would be possible without the co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, George Stevens — where is George, there he is — (applause) — and his son Michael — where did Michael go, there he is — (applause) — who have produced the Kennedy Center Honors for 35 years now.

Tonight, we continue a tradition here at the White House by honoring some extraordinary people who have no business being on the same stage together.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got Buddy Guy sitting next to Dustin Hoffman.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got Dave Letterman alongside one of the greatest ballerinas of all time.  I don’t think Dave dances.  (Laughter.)  All three living members of Led Zeppelin in one place — (applause) — so this is a remarkable evening.

And it speaks to something that has always made this country great — the idea that here in America, more than any other place on Earth, we are free to follow our own passions, explore our own gifts, wherever they may lead us.  And people from all around the world come here to make sure that they too can provide us the incredible gifts that they have.

Tonight’s honorees didn’t just take up their crafts to make a living.  They did it because they couldn’t imagine living any other way.  That passion took each of them from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of their profession.  Tonight, in the People’s House, we have a chance to say thank you.

Growing up as the son of a sharecropper in Louisiana, Buddy Guy made his first guitar out of wires from a window screen — that worked until his parents started wondering how all the mosquitos were getting in.  (Laughter.)  But Buddy was hooked, and a few years later, he bought a one-way ticket to Chicago to find his heroes — Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.  Pretty soon he was broke, hungry and ready to head home.  And then, one night outside a blues club, a man pulled up and handed Buddy a salami sandwich and said, “I’m Mud,” and “you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”  And that was the start of something special.

Of course, success hasn’t changed the humble country boy who used to milk cows on a farm outside Baton Rouge.  Buddy tells a story about his son Greg wanting to learn to play the guitar like Prince.  Buddy told him he’d better learn some Jimi Hendrix first.  (Laughter.)  It was only after watching a TV special on Hendrix that Greg found out Jimi had borrowed some licks from his dad.  So Greg said, “I didn’t know you could play like that.”  And Buddy said, “You never asked.”  (Laughter.)

Today, Buddy is still going strong — one of the last guardians of the great American blues.  And on a personal note, I will never forget Buddy playing “Sweet Home Chicago” in this very room back in February and him, and a few others, forcing me to sing along — (laughing) — which was just okay.  (Laughter.)  There aren’t too many people who can get me to sing, but Buddy was one of them.  And so we are so glad that we can honor him tonight.  Congratulations, Buddy Guy.  (Applause.)

When “The Graduate” was originally written, the main character was supposed to be Robert Redford — a tall, blond track star.  And when Dustin Hoffman auditioned for the part, a crew member handed him a subway token on his way out, saying, “here, kid, you’re gonna need this.”  (Laughter.)

Dustin ended up getting the role and it launched one of the greatest movie careers of his generation, of any generation.  Most actors dream of being in maybe one film that becomes part of our cultural vocabulary.  Dustin churned out “Midnight Cowboy,” “Tootsie,” “Rain Man,” “Hook” — not bad for a guy who signed up for his first acting class after a friend told him, “nobody flunks acting, it’s like gym.”  (Laughter.)

Still, I imagine one secret to his success is his inability to see himself as anything but an underdog.  Even after “The Graduate” became a runaway success, Dustin says, “I really believed that was a fluke and I refused to believe I had arrived.  And in a way, I’ve been hanging on by my fingertips for the entire ride.

Well, Dustin, you’ll be glad to know that this award was not supposed to go to Robert Redford.  (Laughter.)  He’s already got one.  (Laughter.)  So tonight we honor Dustin Hoffman — an actor who has finally arrived.  He’s made it.  (Applause.)  He’s made it.  (Applause.)

If you ask David Letterman what’s it like to tape his show, he’ll say, “if it’s going well, it just lifts you.  If it’s not going well, it sinks you.  It’s exhilarating. It’s my favorite hour of the day.”  It’s unclear how Dave feels about this hour.  It’s different when you’re not the one with the mic, isn’t it, Dave?  (Laughter.)  You’re looking a little stressed, aren’t you?  (Laughter.)  I’d also point out it’s a lot warmer here than it is on Dave’s set.  (Laughter.)

But I’ve enjoyed my time in the Ed Sullivan Theater.  And earlier this year, Dave celebrated his 30th anniversary in late night television — the only person to reach that milestone besides Johnny Carson.  Now, Dave will be the first to tell you that he’s no Carson, that all his years on television have only made him appreciate even more how unique Johnny was.  But that’s a good thing, because if he were more like Johnny, he’d be less like Dave.

After all, it was Dave who got his start as an Indianapolis weatherman, once reporting that the city was being pelted by hail “the size of canned hams.”  (Laughter.)  It’s one of the highlights of his career.  (Laughter.)  It was Dave who strapped a camera to a monkey — (laughter) — worked a Taco Bell drive-thru, told Lady Gaga that when he was her age, he had a paper route.  (Laughter.)  It was Dave who came back on the air less than a week after 9/11 to show the world that New York was still standing.  (Applause.)

So tonight we honor David Letterman, who has always offered us an authentic piece of himself — sometimes cranky, often self-deprecating, always funny.  And those of you who have been on his show know he is also a true gentleman.  So thank you, Dave.  (Applause.)

When Natalia Makarova defected from the Soviet Union in 1970, she made headlines around the globe.  But back home, her name was excised from textbooks, her photos expunged from the walls of her school.  And for the next 18 years, her countrymen were forced to rely on underground channels to follow the rise of one of the most accomplished ballerinas in the world.

But no one can erase what takes hold of the heart.  And in 1989, when the Iron Curtain opened, the Russian people welcomed her back with open arms.  Over 2,000 people packed the Kirov Theater where she had trained as a young girl — another 20 people crammed in with the orchestra — all to watch a dancer who never thought she’d be back.  It was a fitting end to a career that began when 13-year-old Natalia, completely double-jointed and possessed of an incredible gift for musicality and movement, told her parents she did not want to be an engineer, thank you, she wanted to dance.

After hanging up her shoes, Natalia moved to Broadway, where she won a Tony Award.  And she remains as humble as ever — once saying, “I’m never proud of what I’ve done.  Sometimes, I’m not ashamed.”  So thank you, Natalia, for the understatement of the century.  (Laughter.)  And thank you for sharing your talents with all of us.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

I worked with the speechwriters — there is no smooth transition from ballet to Led Zeppelin.  (Laughter.)  We were trying to work the “Stairway To Heaven” metaphor and it didn’t work.  (Laughter.)

So when Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham burst onto the musical scene in the late 1960s, the world never saw it coming.  There was this singer with a mane like a lion and a voice like a banshee, a guitar prodigy who left people’s jaws on the floor, a versatile bassist who was equally at home on the keyboards, a drummer who played like his life depended on it.

And when the Brits initially kept their distance, Led Zeppelin grabbed America from the opening chord.  We were ready for what Jimmy called songs with “a lot of light and shade.”  It’s been said that a generation of young people survived teenage angst with a pair of headphones and a Zeppelin album and a generation of parents wondered what all that noise was about.  (Laughter.)

But even now, 32 years after John Bonham’s passing — and we all I think appreciate the fact — the Zeppelin legacy lives on.  The last time the band performed together in 2007 — perhaps the last time ever, but we don’t know — more than 20 million fans from around the world applied for tickets.  And what they saw was vintage Zeppelin.  No frills, no theatrics, just a few guys who can still make the ladies weak at the knees, huddled together, following the music.  (Laughter.)

Of course, these guys also redefined the rock and roll lifestyle.  We do not have video of this.  (Laughter.)  But there was some hotel rooms trashed and mayhem all around.  So it’s fitting that we’re doing this in a room with windows that are about three inches thick — (laughter) — and Secret Service all around.  (Laughter.)  So, guys, just settle down.  (Laughter.)  These paintings are valuable.  (Laughter.)  They look very calm now though, don’t they?  (Laughter.)

It is a tribute to you guys.  And tonight we honor Led Zeppelin for making us all feel young, and for showing us that some guys who are not completely youthful can still rock.

So we’ve got Buddy Guy.  We’ve got Dustin Hoffman.  We’ve got David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, Led Zeppelin — (applause) — each of us can remember a moment when the people on this stage touched our lives.  Maybe they didn’t lead us to become performers ourselves.  But maybe they inspired us to see things in a new way, to hear things differently, to discover something within us or to appreciate how much beauty there is in the world.

It’s that unique power that makes the arts so important.  We may not always think about the importance of music or dance or laughter to the life of this nation, but who would want to imagine America without it?  That’s why we celebrate artists like the ones here tonight.  And that’s why, in this season of joy and thanksgiving, they have earned our deepest appreciation.

So congratulations again to tonight’s honorees.  Thank you all very much.  And I look forward to a spectacular evening.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
5:44 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency November 28, 2012: Joy to All: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2012 White House Christmas Holiday Decor — Remarks at Holiday Press Preview

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Joy to All: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2012 White House Holiday Decor

Source: WH, 11-28-12

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with children of military families at the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with children of military families in the Green Room of the White House during the Christmas holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The theme of the 2012 White House Holiday decorations is “Joy to All”.

The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline. And in welcoming a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 90,000 anticipated visitors, First Lady Michelle Obama explained that this year’s theme “celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks.”

The 2012 decorations embrace several beloved White House traditions: There are 54 decorated trees throughout the residence, and four of them on display in the Grand Foyer are trimmed with ornaments that pay tribute to the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back to Mrs. Kennedy, including some original ornaments from years past.

Two of the rooms pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces and their families. The walls of the East Landing are adorned with wreaths crafted with red, white, and blue yarn, and a tree decorated with red, white and blue ornaments completes the space. The official White House Christmas tree, which stands tall in the center of the Blue Room, honors the courageous service of the troops, veterans, and military families who serve our country with pride. The 18-foot-6- inch Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina is trimmed with ornaments decorated by military children living on U.S. Military Bases all over the world, and these one-of-a-kind ornaments honor their parents’ commitment to service.

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a craft project during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room of the White House during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) (Official White House Photo)

Other traditions that continue include the annual representation of the White House in pastry form: This year, the White House Gingerbread House was constructed from more than 175 pounds of gingerbread and modified gingerbread, and more than 50 pounds of chocolate. The base of the House, a combination of wheat, rye, and white-flour gingerbread, mimics the color of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the president’s residence was first painted white.

First Dog Bo Obama also makes a return. A life-size replica of the First Family’s Portuguese Water Dog –made out of 18,000 one-inch black pompoms and 2,000 white pompoms – is the centerpiece of the East Garden Room, and more than 40 handmade “Bo-flakes” ornaments hang from the trees throughout the White House. White House staff have prepared a special activity for all of the young people who visit during the holiday season: They’ll receive a bookmark with a checklist that instructs them to find the “Bo-flake” ornament hanging in eight rooms of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama Makes a honey tea stirrer during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012.

First Lady Michelle Obama shows her honey tea stirrer that she made with and children of military families during a craft project in the State Dining Room of the White House during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Of course, none of this would be possible if not for the volunteers who take time out of their busy lives to come from all parts of the country to help decorate the White House, and Mrs. Obama thanked them in her remarks this afternoon. This year, 85 volunteers representing 39 states worked tirelessly to transform the People’s House, undertaking tasks from stringing all 20,000 of the pompoms on the Bo topiary to covering iron arches in the Lower Cross Hall with over 6,000 repurposed White House glass ornaments.

Remarks by the First Lady at Holiday Press Preview

East Room

1:33 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA: Well, hi, everyone. Welcome to the White House. Pretty cool, huh? Yes.

Well, let me start by thanking Jennifer, first of all, for that very lovely introduction, and to welcome her family here as well, her father and her husband. We are just so grateful for your service and so glad you could be here. Thank you, Jennifer, for everything that your family — you and your family have done for this country and what you’ve done to help make this house as beautiful as it is.

As First Lady, I think you all know that I have had the privilege of traveling all across this country. And one of the best things I get to do is to meet with all of the wonderful, extraordinary military families like Jennifer’s family and all of your families. And it’s an honor, truly an honor to host you all here today at the White House. It’s a cool house. I like it.

I have said this many times before and I will say it again, because I can’t say it enough — our military families truly represent the very best that this country has to offer. And I’ve seen it up close. You all do so much for this country, and you do it with such amazing poise and grace.

You all are outstanding neighbors. You are just phenomenal, focused parents. You all are tremendous coworkers and community leaders in your own rights. And you all do this under such extraordinary circumstances. So many of you are doing it while moving from base to base every couple of years, enduring all of those months of long deployments with loved ones serving, oftentimes, halfway around the world.

And then, there are our military kids. You guys look gorgeous today, and handsome — (laughter) — and very clean. (Laughter.) And we’re going to try to change that, because we’re going to have sugar and glue and stuff like that. And it will be okay, moms and dads, because the photos will have been done. So they can get a little messy and get the black Bo cookies around their mouths. (Laughter.)

But you guys are very brave. You all are tremendous heroes in your own rights, because we know how hard you all work to adjust to all the changes that go on in your life. How many new schools have you guys been — how many schools have you guys been in? And give me some numbers. Have you been — you can go ahead. How many schools have you been to?

CHILD: Four.

MRS. OBAMA: And how old are you?

CHILD: Ten.

MRS. OBAMA: Ten. Four schools — 10 years old. That is typical. And then you meet these kids and they’ve been to so many schools in a few years, but they’re adjusting. They’re keeping their grades up, right? (Laughter.) I can tell you’re an A student. I can just feel it. (Laughter.)

And so many of you step up and handle your business while mom or dad is away. Right? You do what you can do. And I just want you all to know — all of you — just how proud we are. We are so proud of you. We think you’re pretty amazing individuals. I know it may not feel that way, but you’re special. And we’re just so happy to have you here. We’re grateful for your sacrifice. We’re grateful for you service.

And that’s really why we wanted to invite all of you here today — to say thank you. This is one big, huge thank you. From me to you all — thank you. We have found some wonderful ways to pay tribute to your service and sacrifice as an important part of our holiday decorating efforts here at the White House.

And it starts, as you all have seen, the minute visitors walk through the White House for their tours. The first thing they see, the very first tree they see honors our men and women in uniform for the extraordinary sacrifice they and their families have made. And thanks to several of you here today, I know that this tree is now decorated with special Gold Star ornaments bearing the names of some of America’s greatest heroes, those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House during this season will have the opportunity to decorate their own ornament and hang it on that very tree for the entire holiday period in honor of their loved ones.

But there’s more. Because in that area, there’s also an opportunity for visitors to fill out Operation Honor cards, and I filled out many myself. But these cards are used to pledge an individual service to their community in honor of our military families, servicemembers and veterans. And guests will also be able to write a note expressing their gratitude for the service that all of you have given to this country.

And we are also honoring our military families with some very special decorations on the official White House Christmas tree that’s in the Blue Room. It’s the biggest tree in the house. It’s huge — stands close to 19 feet tall. It is one of my favorite trees. This very special Joining Forces tree is covered with hand-decorated ornaments made by military children living in U.S. bases around the world. We have spent months and months gathering these beautiful ornaments, and guests will be able to take the time and read the messages and hear from these kids directly as they tour the White House.

In addition to these unique tributes to our military families, we also have many of the traditional holiday favorites built around our central theme. And as a little bit of a history lesson, the custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline. And this year’s theme is “Joy to All.” It celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks.

We’ve also continued the tradition of decorating trees throughout the house. We have 54 trees in the White House — 54. That’s a lot of trees. Fifty-four trees that reflect the theme including four trees in the grand foyer, which is the area out here. There are four beautiful trees that are trimmed with ornaments paying tribute to the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back to Jacqueline Kennedy.

And this is a really wonderful treat — some of them are replicas, but there are a few on there that are original ornaments. And they’re tagged, so when you look on them you can see some of them are mine, some of them are Laura Bush’s, and they just give you a sense of what Christmas felt like in other administrations with other families and First Ladies.

And of course, keeping with past holiday traditions, we have our annual White House Gingerbread House. Have you guys seen that yet?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: It is — Bill Yosses, our executive pastry chef, and his team did a phenomenal job. This White House looks kind of real. What do you all think?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: It looks pretty — oh, we get a thumbs up there. (Laughter.) Bill is over there. We got a thumbs up. But it is beautiful.

A White House holiday staple since the 1960s, this year’s house weighs nearly 300 pounds. So it’s a pretty big house, and its walls are made to resemble granite. So he did some kind of technique to make it look like real granite. And it even includes chandeliers that light up. It glows. (Laughter.) Like Rudolph’s nose, right?

So it’s beautiful. And we have a little replica First Lady’s Garden, with all the little details in there, and a big giant Bo. Bo is kind of big, don’t you think? (Laughter.) That basically represents Bo’s standing in the house. (Laughter.) He is almost as big as the house. He is such a huge personality.

But we also have a special activity prepared for the young people who visit the White House this year. We thought it would be fun to give them a bookmark with a checklist that instructs them to find all of the hidden Bo ornaments located in eight rooms of the White House. So it’s our version of “Where’s Waldo?”, but we do it with Bo. (Laughter.) And we hope that will keep kids busy while their parents are looking at the Christmas cards and you guys are really focusing in, the kids will have something to do.

But these are just a few of this year’s highlights, and I could go on and on. But I know we have cookies to decorate and things to do. But what I have to tell you is that this would be — this would not be possible if it weren’t for the 85 fabulous volunteers like Jennifer, who took time out of their busy lives to come from all parts of the country to help us decorate this house.

And it happens overnight. I mean literally once the tree is delivered, it is a matter of days before this house is transformed into what you see. And it’s because of people like Jennifer who come in, and they build bonds, and they share stories about their grandchildren. And they’re as dedicated as Jennifer is to making this house beautiful, and we’re just so grateful to have so many people willing to take time out of their lives and invest in this house for so many to see.

So it’s going to be a great holiday for everyone, and we are just excited to have visitors come through. This is our official opening. Throughout the holiday season, more than 90,000 people will come from all around the world to see this house. And I couldn’t imagine a better way to get things kicked off by having all of you here with us.

So with that, I want to, again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service and your sacrifice. And I do hope that your holiday season is truly special, that you really use this time to reflect and come together.

And so many of us in this country will use your lives as inspiration as we sit around our trees and our tables and we think about all that we have and all that all of you are sacrificing to make sure that we live in freedom and harmony. We are truly grateful to all of you, and we thank you.

And now, you guys ready to have some fun?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: So I’m going to ask all of our — ready, righteous. You guys are going to come with me. May you rise. We’ve got activities planned. Parents, do not despair. Your children will be safe. We will bring them back, maybe a little dirtier, but they’ll be happy. A little bit of a sugar high, maybe. Try not to — try not to glue and lick at the same time. Remember there’s glue. Everything is not edible. (Applause.)

You guys ready to come with me and do some decorating? All right, let’s go. We will see you all shortly. Thank you so much. Happy holidays. (Applause.)

END
1:45 P.M. EST

Obama Presidency November 23, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 11-23-12

The official White House Christmas tree, a 19-foot Fraser fir, arrives in a horse-drawn carriageThe official White House Christmas tree, a 19-foot Fraser Fir, arrives in a horse-drawn carriage at the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama greeted the official White House Christmas Tree, which arrived via horse-drawn carriage. Daughters Sasha and Malia and First Dog Bo also helped welcome the tree. This year’s official tree is a 19-foot Fraser Fir that was selected in early October and harvested this month at Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina.. It will be displayed throughout the holiday season in the Blue Room. Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966.

First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas treeFirst Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 23, 2012. The tree, a 19-foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, N.C., arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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