Political Musings December 26, 2014: Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obamas celebrate Christmas marking the end of the War in Afghanistan

By Bonnie K. Goodman

There was a definite theme and message President Barack Obama was trying to get across this Christmas, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, that after 13 years the combat war in Afghanistan will officially be over on Dec. 31. The president and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 25, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady Michelle Obama — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Source: WH, 12-25-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2014

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  Now, we’re not going to take much of your time because today is about family and being together with the ones you love.  And luckily for me, that means I get a little help on the weekly address, too.

THE FIRST LADY:  The holidays at the White House are such a wonderful time of year.

We fill the halls with decorations, Christmas trees, and carolers – and this year, we invited more than 65,000 people to join us.

Our theme was “A Children’s Winter Wonderland” – and Americans young and old had a chance to come together and celebrate the season.

THE PRESIDENT: And today, our family will join millions across the country in celebrating the birth of Jesus – the birth not just of a baby in a manger, but of a message that has changed the world: to reach out to the sick; the hungry; the troubled; and above all else, to love one another as we would be loved ourselves.

THE FIRST LADY: We hope that this holiday season will be a chance for us to live out that message—to bridge our differences and lift up our families, friends, and neighbors… and to reconnect with the values that bind us together.

And as a country, that also means celebrating and honoring those who have served and sacrificed for all of us—our troops, veterans, and their families.

THE PRESIDENT: In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Our longest war will come to a responsible end.  And that gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect upon all that these families have given us.  We’re able to gather with family and friends because our troops are willing to hug theirs goodbye and step forward to serve.  After a long day, we can come home because they’re willing to leave their families and deploy.  We can celebrate the holidays because they’re willing to miss their own.

THE FIRST LADY: And so, as our troops continue to transition back home—back to our businesses, our schools, our congregations, and our communities—it’s up to all of us to serve them as well as they have served us.

You can visit JoiningForces.gov to find out how you can honor and support the troops, veterans, and military families in your communities.

That’s something we can do not only during the holiday season, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So Merry Christmas, everybody.  May God bless you all.  And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2015.

Full Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at “Christmas in Washington”

Source: WH, 12-15-14

National Building Museum

7:32 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Give it up for Santa’s biggest, baddest elf — our host, The Rock. (Applause.) Dwayne is tough as nails on the outside, but as you heard earlier, he is a big softie on the inside. Even played me once on “Saturday Night Live.” (Laughter.) You can see the resemblance. (Laughter.) I have a little more hair.

I want to thank all the incredible performers for dazzling us with their talents tonight. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) And we want to thank all the people behind the scenes who help make this wonderful event possible every single year.

For 33 years, “Christmas in Washington” has benefited a remarkable institution — Children’s National Medical Center. That’s where dedicated medical professionals provide world-class care to our most precious resource — our children — every single day of the year. Of course, this holiday is all about the birth of a child more than 2,000 years ago. A young soon-to-be mother and her husband of modest means traveled to Bethlehem and sought shelter for the night. They found it in a manger. And in the lowliest of surroundings a Savior was born who would change the world.

Jesus Christ lived a life of peace, of love, and kindness and forgiveness. He administered to the poor and to the sick, to the stranger and the outcast on society’s margins. His life of service teaches us that our individual salvation is wrapped up in the salvation of others. And two millennia later, it lifts the hearts of billions around the world, Christians and non-Christians alike.

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas season, may we all do our best to follow his example, to reach out to someone whose Christmas isn’t so jolly; to turn our blessings into kindness and compassion; to treat one another the way we would like to be treated. That’s the real Christmas spirit.

To all our men and women in uniform serving far from home, and to the families who miss them, we thank you for your service and sacrifice, and we’re thinking of you this holiday season. And to every American, from the Obama family to yours, Merry Christmas. God bless you, and God bless America.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 7:36 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks for Our Troops

Source: WH, 12-13-14

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 13, 2014

Hi, everybody. It’s the holidays—a season to give thanks for our many blessings. The love of family. The joy of good friends. The bonds of community. The freedom we cherish as Americans. The peace and justice we seek in the world.

As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.

That’s why, on Monday, I’ll be visiting our troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey—to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices. Since our nation was attacked on 9/11, these men and women, like so many others in uniform, have met every mission we’ve asked of them. They deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has worked with the Afghan people to help them reclaim their communities and prevent terrorist attacks against our own country.

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.

Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean the end of challenges to our security.We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America. The troops I’ll visit on Monday have been part of our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They’ve been supporting our efforts in West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic and save lives. Because in times of crisis and challenge, the world turns to America for leadership. And when the world calls on America, we call on the brave men and women of our armed forces to do what no one else can.

So this holiday season, as we give thanks for the blessings in our own lives, let’s also give thanks to our men and women in uniform who make those blessings possible. Even as some are coming home for the holidays, many more will be far from their families, who sacrifice along with them.

There are so many ways we can express our gratitude to our troops, their families and our veterans—everyone can do something. To find out what you can do, just go to JoiningForces.gov. As a nation, as Americans, let’s always keep striving to serve them as well as they have always served us.

Thanks, have a great weekend, and God bless our troops and their families.

Political Musings December 10, 2014: First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle delivers Toys for Tots with Santa Obama as the big Elf

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This year President Barack Obama joined his wife First Lady Michelle Obama, on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 10, 2014 to deliver and sort toys for the “Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots campaign” at the joint Base…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2014: President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the First Lady At Toys for Tots Gift Sorting

Source: WH, 12-10-14

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

1:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s a pretty serious, ho, ho, ho.

THE PRESIDENT:  Ho, ho, ho.

MRS. OBAMA:  How is everybody doing?

THE PRESIDENT:  She’s doing good.

MRS. OBAMA: Happy holidays, merry Christmas.

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas.

MRS. OBAMA: How are all the kids?  Yay.  Well, we’re happy to be back.  As you can see, I brought a little help this year.  Welcome to Toys for Tots.  Your first year.  We’re going to break you in slowly, okay?

But let me start — we’re not going to talk long because we’re here to actually do some work.  But I want to just thank everybody who has been involved in this effort.  Of course, Lieutenant General Osman, who has just been a tremendous partner for so many years.  His leadership is really at the heart of what makes this drive possible.

But also Lieutenant General Richard Mills, Lieutenant Colonel David Johnson, and First Sergeant Lowery, as well.  Let’s give them all a round of applause for their tremendous leadership.  (Applause.)

Thank you all for all the hours that you spend picking up the donations, sorting in warehouses all throughout the area.  This wouldn’t be possible without you and, of course, your wonderful families here who help to make this possible.

We have a couple of other folks here.  We’ve got White House Communications Agency folks and their families.  Let’s give you guys a round of applause.  Thank you all so much for your work.  (Applause.)

And of course, to all of the Marines from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, plus their spouses and all of our military kids.  Yay, you guys.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yay!  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  As General Osman said, this is the sixth year that I’ve been involved in Toys for Tots.  And every year it’s just a tremendous privilege to be able to be a part of making Christmas just a little brighter for a few kids across the country.

And we try to make it a big deal at the White House.  We create competitions.  I think this year the office that collected the most toys got a Bo and Sonny visit.  (Laughter.)  So we did a good job this year.  I think this year we’re bringing in about a thousand toys from the White House.  And so we’re proud of our team at the White House for participating.

But we still have a lot of time.  And one of the things that I just want to remind the public is that there’s still time to donate.  And we really want to urge folks out there do everything in their power to donate to Toys for Tots.

And if you need to find out where to go, all you have to go — do is go to the Toys for Tots website.  People can donate online.  They can go by one of the drop-off centers.  And each year, I kind of remind people that at times one of the challenges is making sure we have enough toys for the older kids.  It’s always fun to buy the Barbie Dolls and the coloring books, but we have to remember that there are teenagers out there too that need those gifts.  And we try to make it a point to make sure that we’re buying cool clothes for kids and electronic products and educational materials for teenagers, as well.

So if you haven’t already donated, don’t forget our teenagers.  They’re looking for a merry Christmas as well.

So with that, I’m going to turn it over to my new helper, who I brought along with me.  He doesn’t need any introductions.  I don’t know how good he’ll be with sorting — (laughter) — because he doesn’t usually deal in shopping in any kind of way.  But we’ll watch him closely to see if he can figure out which ones are girls, zero to two, or unisex.  It gets really complicated.  So watch him, because he could really make your work harder.

So with that, it’s my pleasure to introduce my husband, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  I’m the big elf.  (Laughter.)  I’m like Will Farrell.  (Laughter.)  It is great to be here.  I’m not going to talk long.  I just want to say thanks to all of you for participating.  I want to say thank you to Toys for Tots.  Quick statistic:  Since it started in the 1940s, Toys for Tots has distributed more than 469 million toys to more than 216 million children.  That’s a lot of dollhouses, that’s a lot of Ninja Turtles.

But really what Toys for Tots is about is generosity and giving back.  All of us are so blessed.  Look at these beautiful kids here and wonderful families.  We are lucky.  We’re lucky first and foremost to live in the United States of America, and we’re lucky to be able to look after our kids and there are parents out there who love their kids just as much but are going through a tough time.  And for us to be able to make sure that that holiday spirit extends a little bit beyond just our family but to people all around the country, it is a wonderful contribution.

While I’m here, I just want to say thank you to our Marine Corps for their extraordinary work.  Our men and women in uniform and our military families don’t just work to keep us safe; they’re also strengthening our country here at home.  They’re volunteering at schools, congregations, our communities.  With our combat mission coming to a close in Afghanistan, it means more of our extraordinary military members are going to be home for the holidays, back where they belong.  And that is the most important blessing of all.

But what’s also great is that we’re now seeing our incredible military — some who may be leaving the military — able to provide that same dedication, that same sense of service to organizations throughout the country.  Sometimes in a volunteer capacity, sometimes in a professional capacity.  And we are very proud of that.  Lieutenant General Osman is just a great example of the ongoing spirit of duty and service that is instilled in armed forces.  So we are so grateful to all of you.

With that, I want to wish everybody a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and let’s get sorting.  I am positive that girls, zero to two, that’s perfect for the “Call of Duty” video game.  (Laughter.)  Isn’t that right?

MRS. OBAMA:  What video game?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, she didn’t even get the joke.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  I wasn’t listening.

THE PRESIDENT:  She wasn’t listening to me.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
1:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Source: WH, 12-4-14 

Ellipse

6:12 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas, everybody!  (Applause.)  We saw this party going on out back and we thought we’d join you.

I want to thank Secretary Jewell for not only the introduction but for all that you and everybody who is part of the Interior Department and the Park Service do to protect the magnificent outdoors for our children and for future generations.  And I want to thank Jonathan Jarvis, Dan Wenk, and everybody at the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for putting on this special event each and every holiday season.

I want everybody to give it up for our charming Christmas hosts tonight, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.  (Applause.)  We have so enjoyed the incredible performers, including the one and only Patti LaBelle.  (Applause.)  And, finally, thanks to all of you who are here and watching at home for joining us to celebrate this wonderful holiday tradition.

Back in 1923, school kids here in Washington wrote a letter to the White House asking if they could put a Christmas tree on the South Lawn.  And more than 90 years and a few different evergreens later — (laughter) — the National Christmas Tree still stands as a symbol of hope and holiday spirit, and we still gather as a country each year to light it.

We still have school kids involved, too.  But this year, they’ve given all the state and territory trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree their first digital upgrade.  Young women from all 50 states used their computers — using their coding skills to control the colors and patterns of the lights on the trees.  (Applause.)  So thanks to those wonderful students.  It is incredibly impressive.  It’s actually one of the few things that Tom Hanks cannot do.  (Laughter.)

But while lighting the tree has entered into the 21st century, the story that we remember this season dates back more than 2,000 years.  It’s the story of hope –- the birth of a singular child into the simplest of circumstances -– a child who would grow up to live a life of humility, and kindness, and compassion; who traveled with a message of empathy and understanding; who taught us to care for the poor, and the marginalized, and those who are different from ourselves.  And more than two millennia later, the way he lived still compels us to do our best to build a more just and tolerant and decent world.

It is a story dear to my family as Christians, but its meaning is one embraced by all peoples across our country and around the world, regardless of how they pray, or whether they pray at all.  And that’s to love our neighbors as ourselves.  To be one another’s keepers.  To have faith in one another, and in something better around the bend.  Not just at Christmastime, but all the time.

And, finally, this Christmas, we count our blessings and we give thanks to the men and women of our military who help make those blessings possible.  And as we hold our loved ones tight, let’s remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home.  They are our heroes, and they deserve our heartfelt gratitude and our wholehearted support.  (Applause.)

So on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha, mom-in-law — (laughter) — and our reindeer Bo and Sunny — (laughter) — I want to wish all of them and I want to wish all of you a very, very merry Christmas, and a holiday filled with joy.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

END
6:17 P.M. EST

Political Musings November 29, 2014: Obama family celebrates Thanksgiving, begin Christmas season at the White House

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama family celebrates Thanksgiving, begin Christmas season at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past weekend President Barack Obama and his family celebrated Thanksgiving with all the White House traditions. First Obama pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 in a White House ceremony, afterwards the whole family volunteered at…READ MORE

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

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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 PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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: Michelle Obama unveils White House Christmas decorations with minor Sunny mishap

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

Political Headlines December 4, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decorations

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First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decor

Source: WH, 12-4-13

First Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room during the White House holiday press preview, Dec. 4, 2013. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses helps children decorate Springerle cookie ornFirst Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room during the White House holiday press preview, Dec. 4, 2013. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses helps children decorate Springerle cookie ornaments. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year’s theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. “Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays,” she said. 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….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 4, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at 2013 Christmas Holiday Press Preview

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at 2013 Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 12-4-13

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

First lady Michelle Obama spoke to military families in front of the White House Christmas tree on Wednesday.

East Room
1:32 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  You guys look great — I’m talking about the front row.  (Laughter.)  You guys look okay, too.  Well, I am thrilled to welcome you all here to the White House.  Are you excited?
CHILDREN:  Yes!
MRS. OBAMA:  Why are you excited?  (Laughter.)  Because it’s Christmas?  Because you’re going to get presents soon?  Because there may be treats somewhere?  Yes, a few heads nodding.  Well, we’re excited to have you guys here with us today.
I want to start by thanking Diane and her amazing family for all that they’ve done for this country and for that eloquent introduction, and for being one of the many fabulous volunteers who helped make this White House so beautiful.  In fact, Diane told me that she got to work in this room, so we can personally thank her for this beautiful — these beautiful decorations.  Diane, we’re just so grateful to you.  And I want you all to know a little bit about Diane — that in addition to the long hours that she put in this week, on top of all of that, she has spent countless hours volunteering regularly in her community through her church, through the Red Cross.
So volunteering is no stranger — or Diane is no stranger to volunteering.  In fact, Diane isn’t alone in the contributions she’s making — in fact, I believe she embodies the spirit that we see in military families –- families like all of yours all across this country, particularly during the holiday season.  You all are serving our nation.  You all are volunteering in your communities every day.  And you’re also taking care of business at home with your own families.
And during this holiday season, as we gather with our loved ones, I’d ask every American to remember what our military families and servicemembers often experience during this time of year.  Let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us.
For example, I’m thinking today about the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad who wake up in the middle of the night in some remote part of the world to read a special holiday story to their children over Skype, or to be there on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa.
And then there are the military families who spend hours painstakingly filling holiday care packages for their loved ones in uniform –- sending them miniature Christmas trees, making holiday cookies, creating special homemade cards, doing their best to help them experience the magic of the holidays wherever they may be.
And let us remember that many military families are assigned to bases that are far from their extended families, so they aren’t always able to make it home to see grandma and grandpa.  And as a consequence, they have to find new ways to make the season bright.  So they reach out, and they band together with other families, and they create their own special military family celebrations and traditions.  And that’s what I’ve learned that military families do.
No matter what challenges you all face –- during the holidays or any other time during the year — you all just dig a little deeper.  I say this time and time again.  You just get creative and you find ways to make it work, and you do it with such strength and humor and grace.  And on top of all of that, somehow, like Diane, so many of you still manage to find time over the holidays and throughout the year to give back to your communities, once again digging deep and going above and beyond.
In fact, a recent survey shows that 81 percent of military family members reported volunteering in the past year, and that’s compared to just 27 percent of the general public.  So you guys really make us all look bad.  (Laughter.)  But in short, your sacrifice and your service to this country, your families’ stories are such an important part of our great American story — stories that remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season.
And that actually brings me to this year’s official White House holiday theme, which is “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”  This holiday season, we’ll be focusing on the stories behind classic American holiday traditions — traditions celebrated here at the White House and across the country.  Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays.
And that starts with all of you — literally.  In fact, when visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces.  This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes:  Those who gave their lives for our country.  And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one.  In addition, everyone who visits this White House this year gets a chance to fill out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve their community in honor of our military families, your servicemembers, your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve.
We also have an entire room — it’s right next door, it’s the Blue Room, one of my favorite rooms — dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military.  The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service.  And they’re beautiful, they’re really sweet cards.
So that’s how we’ll be honoring our veterans and servicemembers and their families this holiday season.  And I would ask during this time that every American find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day.  And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.
As for the rest of the house, because there is more, we have a number of special touches that build on our “Gather Around: Stories of the Season” theme.  In the East Garden Room, you’ll see Christmas trees made entirely of stacks of books.  You may have seen those coming in, they’re very cool.  In the Cross Hall, you’ll see trees reflecting the idea of gathering around our heritage.  They’ll be decorated with ornaments representing great American sites like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and there’s some silhouettes of people you might know today in history, so you guys will look and see if you recognize anyone.
And of course, we have our usual first dog display.  This year, Bo will be joined by his little sister Sunny, our new pup, and the two of them will be surrounded by books.  And I was surprised to see last night, this year they actually move.  They’re mechanical.  This is a new step.  We’re stepping up in the world of Bo-and-Sunny honoring.  And these are just a few of this year’s highlights.
Although people who visit the White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths, they’re going to see thousands of ornaments and they’re going to see a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds — it’s pretty big — some of the best sights they’ll see are kids enjoying all of this just wonderful glory.  Some of the best times in this White House is just watching the faces of kids as they walk through this house and count the trees and look at the ornaments.
And none of this would be possible without the 83 volunteers like Diane who came from all across the country to help us decorate, once again, sacrificing, leaving their families — because they start decorating this house the day after Thanksgiving.  It would not be possible for us to do all of this without our volunteers.  They are a pleasure to work with, they are high-energy, they are positive.  And just look around.  I mean, every year they just outdo themselves.  So we are just so grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.
Now, over the course of this season, about 70,000 people will come to see our holiday decorations — not bad.  And I can’t imagine a better group of people than all of you to be our very first guests.  Don’t you feel special?  No one has seen these, not even the President has seen these.  (Applause.)  He hasn’t seen them yet.  You guys are the first.
And truly, it is a treat to make you all the first every season, because you all do so much for us.  And we are so proud and so honored and so grateful.  And we just want to give you a chance to bring your families in to just get a little special something just to remind you just how special we all think you are.
So I want you all to enjoy every minute in this house.  I’m going to stop right now because we’ve got a little something we’re going to do with the kids.  All the kids, you guys think you’re ready to go have some fun?
CHILDREN:  Yes!
MRS. OBAMA:  I’m going to take your kids.  (Laughter.)  And don’t worry, nothing can be broken that can’t be repaired.  I guarantee you my kids have broken it if it can be broken.  And we’re going to go and do some decorating.  Our chefs and our bakers and our florists — they’re over there — they’ve got special little things that you can make, little gifts.  You guys ready for that?
CHILD:  Yes, ma’am!
MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, ma’am!  (Laughter.)  I love that.  So why don’t you guys get up.  You guys can come and go with me.  Parents, you guys hang out.  Get some cider, some cookies, look at the ornaments.  Breathe a little bit.  They’re in good hands.  I guarantee you we will not lose them — but I can’t guarantee you they will come back clean.  (Laughter.)  That’s the only thing I can’t guarantee, so if you want pictures of them clean, do it now.  (Laughter.)
And thank you.  Have a happy holiday, from my family to all of yours.  Enjoy this holiday season.  Be safe, be happy.  And gather round together, and remember what this is all about.
You all, take care.  Love you much.  (Applause.)
END
1:43 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 21, 2013: House Resolution Proposed to ‘Protect’ Christmas

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Resolution Proposed to ‘Protect’ Christmas

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-13

On Thursday, Rep. Doug Lamborn, (R-Colo.) and 36 other Congress members proposed the two-page resolution in an effort to “strongly [disapprove] of attempts to ban references to Christmas.”…READ MORE

Political Musings December 1, 2013: Obamas kick-off Christmas holiday season celebrating with traditions

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obamas kick-off Christmas holiday season celebrating with traditions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, along with Obama family pets Bo and Sunny, welcome the arrival of the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 29, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama presides over the arrival of the Official White House Christmas tree which will spend the holiday adorning the White House Blue Room, Nov. 29, 2013; the First Lady, daughters Malia and Sasha and first pups, Bo and Sunny greeted the tree

President Barack Obama and his family celebrated Thanksgiving and the kick-off of the holiday season as families did across the country, a festive Thanksgiving meal, reaching out to family by phone, Christmas decorating and commencing holiday shopping. However, their…READ MORE

Political Headlines December 24, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Tracks Santa from Hawaii

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

First Lady Tracks Santa from Hawaii

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-24-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

While President Obama is spending this Christmas Eve afternoon golfing in Kaneohe Bay, the First Lady Michelle Obama has been hard at work helping children from across the country track Santa’s every move.

The First Lady spent roughly 30 minutes answering calls from children asking where Santa was located as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa program run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, according to a White House official….READ MORE

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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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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

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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’

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

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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

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