Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2016: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Last Christmas Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: Merry Christmas from the President and the First Lady

Source: WH, 12-23-16

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as Delivered

Weekly Address

The White House

December 24, 2016

THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas everybody!  One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with the special people in your life.  And for me, that means getting some help from my best friend for our annual Christmas Weekly Address.

THE FIRST LADY: Given how our first Christmas Weekly Address went, I realized that Barack needed all the help he could get.

[PAUSE]

THE FIRST LADY: Celebrating the holidays in the White House over these past eight years has been a true privilege.  We’ve been able to welcome over half a million guests… our outstanding pastry chefs have baked 200,000 holiday cookies… and Barack has treated the American people to countless dad jokes.

THE PRESIDENT: Although a few got a…Frosty reception.

THE FIRST LADY: This year’s White House holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays,” and our decorations reflect some of our greatest gifts as a nation: from our incredible military families, to the life-changing impact of a great education.

THE PRESIDENT: And the greatest gift that Michelle and I have received over the last eight years has been the honor of serving as your President and First Lady.  Together, we fought our way back from the worst recession in 80 years, and got unemployment to a nine-year low.  We secured health insurance for another twenty million Americans, and new protections for folks who already had insurance.  We made America more respected around the world, took on the mantle of leadership in the fight to protect this planet for our kids, and much, much more.

By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we first got here.  And I’m hopeful we’ll build on the progress we’ve made in the years to come.

Tomorrow, for the final time as the First Family, we will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior.  And as we retell His story from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember His eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope.

THE FIRST LADY:  The idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  That we should treat others as we would want to be treated.  And that we care for the sick… feed the hungry… and welcome the stranger… no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.

THE PRESIDENT: Those are values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans; nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds. And no one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and their families.

THE FIRST LADY: As always, many of our troops are far from home this time of year, and their families are serving and sacrificing right along with them.  Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season.  That’s why we’ve tried to serve them as well as they’ve served this country.  Go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community – not just during the holidays, but all year round.

THE PRESIDENT: So as we look forward to the New Year, let’s resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share.  And on behalf of the all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny – Merry Christmas, everybody.

THE FIRST LADY: And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2017… thanks, and God bless.

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Full Text Political Transcripts December 1, 2016: Obamas Attend Last National Christmas Tree Lighting

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Full Text Political Transcripts November 29, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama at the Annual Holiday Press Preview

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at Annual Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 11-29-16

This year’s theme: The gift of service and sacrifice

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East Room

1:35 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hi, everybody!  Look how good you guys look.  You ready for some action?

AUDIENCE:  Yes.

MRS. OBAMA:  Are you sure?  I don’t know, you sound like you don’t want cookies or anything like that.  (Laughter.)  You think you want some cookies?  You think so?  Okay, well, we’re going to get to it, but first I want to welcome everyone to the White House.

I want to start by thanking Hazel for that wonderful introduction and for all of her service and hard work in helping to make this home so beautiful.  I want to give a huge thank you to all of the volunteers, as Hazel mentioned, who traveled here from 33 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico to come here and put up these beautiful decorations and transform this White House into this holiday wonderland.  So I’m so grateful to you all.

And as we celebrate my family’s last holiday season in the White House, I’m thinking back to when we first came here to Washington and we promised to open up this house to as many people from as many backgrounds as possible.  And we truly wanted to make the White House the “People’s House,” particularly during the holiday seasons.  And over the past eight years, through the seasons, we’ve worked hard to achieve that goal by welcoming almost a half million guests to this house during the season.  And thanks to our amazing volunteers, we’ve adorned the White House with about a half million ornaments for our guests to enjoy, and we’ve brought smiles to the faces of all those who enjoyed the 200,000 holiday cookies prepared by our outstanding pastry chefs.  And you all will get to have some more of those today.  That will make 200,020 or so.

So, looking back, I am proud to say that we did our very best during the holidays to make Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life feel comfortable and welcome here in our nation’s house.  Now, we do all of this with the help of our extraordinary staff.  I mean, yes, we have wonderful volunteers, but we have folks who, each year, take a very limited budget and very little resources, and they make miracles happen in this house.

So, for our final holiday preview, I just want to take a moment to highlight just a few of the amazing folks who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes.  And I don’t know if they know I’m calling them out — I don’t even know if they’re in the room.  But I want to start with Deesha Dyer, who is the office — our Social Secretary.

MS. DYER:  I’m here.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Deesha, there you are.  There’s Deesha.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Deesha.  And you’re going to see Cris Comerford and Susie Morrison.  Cris is our Executive Chef and Susie is our Executive Pastry Chef.  I want to thank them both, as well as all of the chefs, all of the staff in the kitchen who worked so hard to do everything possible to make these holidays terrific.

I want to thank all of our ushers who never get credit.  I know they’re around here working away, but they’re the people who greet you, and they make sure that things are moving like they should in this house — our florists, who are tremendous.  And I rarely get to thank our electricians, our carpenters, because they make sure that chandeliers are moved and structures are built so that we can put things on, and they do this in a matter of days.  They turn this house upside down.  And to our calligraphers — you’ll see all their handiwork throughout the ornaments.  And I also always want to thank our incredible Marine Band, who you hear from throughout the season.  My husband’s favorite musical crew are his own Marine Band.

This is all possible because of all of these people.  And on behalf of the entire Obama family — me, Barack, Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo and Sunny — (laughter) — we are so proud of this team here, so proud of the time that we spent with you.  We’re grateful for everything you’ve done for us over the years.  So let’s give them a round of applause.  (Applause.)

So before I get choked up, let me officially kick off our final White House holiday season.  And as always, today, we are celebrating with our extraordinary military community, our military families.  We have our servicemembers.  We have veterans here today.  We have wounded warriors.  We have our military spouses!  (Applause.)  You go, spouses.  And of course, we have our outstanding, handsome, beautiful, smart, talented, engaging military kids.  Are there any here?  Oh here they are.  (Laughter.)  Let’s give them all a round of applause.  (Applause.)

For the past eight years, celebrating the holidays and having you all be the first that see the decorations, this has been one of our favorite White House traditions.  It reminds us that between all the shopping lists and the travel plans and all those big meals, that we cannot forget what the holidays are really about, and you all help us.  Our military families like all of you remind us of what matters.  Because even as you serve this country in uniform, or you hold everything together here at home as a military spouse, or you prepare to attend another new school as a military kid —

(A baby in the audience interrupts.)

MRS. OBAMA:  — and there’s that one back there talking about I don’t know what, but there’s a little one back there who has a lot to say.  (Laughter.)  But you all still find time to contribute even more to your communities and to this country.

You do it all.  You volunteer at local food banks.  You coach your kids’ sports teams on the weekends.  Many of you have even cut your Thanksgiving holiday short to come here and decorate the White House.

Just another example — we have Hazel up here — but one of our volunteers, her name is Jacqueline James.  She’s from Redlands, California.  Is Jacqueline here so we can really embarrass her?  She’s probably still working.  We’re going to do another reception for our volunteers later.  But let me tell you a little bit about Jacqueline.

During her husband’s 22 years in the Army, her family — she and her family, they spent the holidays in five different states and even on a base overseas.  During that time they managed to raise seven kids.  And just two weeks ago, they celebrated the birth of their fifteenth grandchild.  But their family’s service to this country did not end when Jacqueline’s husband retired, as they watched two of their sons do tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  And even though Jacqueline doesn’t consider herself the most artistic decorator, she volunteered at the White House this year because — and this is what she said — she said, “If patriotism is an art,” she said, “then I am a master.”

It’s that kind of commitment to serving others, that’s what the holidays are truly about and that’s what we honor with our holiday decorations every year at the White House.  And this year’s holiday theme is “The Gift of the Holidays.”  And as usual, we’re going to be celebrating our country’s greatest gifts with special decorations celebrating our military families.

Down in the Booksellers, when you walk in, the visitors that come will see a tree and a flag display composed of pictures of military families who my husband and I have met on bases and in communities around the world over the course of our time here.  The tree is hung with gold ornaments honoring America’s greatest heroes, the men and women who have given their lives for our country.  And right next to those displays is an iPad station that allows guests to send holiday wishes to our servicemembers, and we are hoping that each of the 68,000 guests that are going to visit during the holiday season will take a moment to pause and send a message to express their gratitude.

After that, they’ll move on to see a number of other decorations that celebrate the gifts we share as a nation.  For example, in the Library, we’re honoring the gift of a great education — which is important, right, school, college, all of that.  And we have trees in the Library made out of crayons and pencils, so you have to check that out if you haven’t already.  And to raise awareness about the millions of adolescent girls around the world who are not able to attend school, we’ve got two trees that are decorated with special ornaments, each of which has the word “girl” written in one of a dozen different languages.

So when guests head upstairs to this floor, they’re going to see that, in the Green Room, it’s filled with decorations representing the gifts provided by our White House Kitchen Garden with trees hung with ornaments in the shape of bees and fruit.  And of course, right next door, we have our 19-foot-tall White House Christmas tree.  It’s really big.  They have to take out the chandeliers and rearrange everything just to get the tree in the house.  And that’s in our Blue Room.  And in the State Dining Room, you’re going to spot the official White House gingerbread house.  So when you see it, guys, it’s made of all — everything on it is something you can eat.  And our pastry chefs have worked very hard to make this house possible.  It is beautiful.  They’ve got the replica of the new White House garden, and Bo and Sunny, and lots of cool stuff.

Now, the trees in that room — there are 56 LEGO gingerbread houses representing every state and territory in America.  And then somewhere around the house, we have supersize replicas of Bo and Sunny guarding their presents, because we don’t let them have their presents.  (Laughter.)  I’m just kidding, they get presents.  They’re fine.

Altogether, the folks who come through these halls over the next few weeks will see about — how many ornaments do you think are in this house?

CHILD:  Six.

MRS. OBAMA:  Six?  (Laughter.)  Ten?

CHILD:  A hundred.

MRS. OBAMA:  A hundred?  Getting closer.

CHILD:  Nine thousand.

MRS. OBAMA:  Nine thousand?

CHILD:  Two hundred.

MRS. OBAMA:  Let me tell you, it’s 70,000 ornaments.  I was pretty shocked at that.

So we can’t wait — that’s a lot of ornaments.  But we can’t wait to start welcoming people into their White House this holiday season.  And to everyone who created these stunning displays, all our volunteers, all our — all the folks who help make this happen, I want to once again say thank you.  You all did a phenomenal job once again in turning this house into a magical place.

And to all the military families, those of you who are here today and all those around the world, I want to once again honor you for your service and your sacrifice and your love of this nation.  It’s a lot that my family and I share along with you.  It has been such a complete pleasure to support you in this time.

So I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy holiday season, all right?  And with that, we get to have some fun, okay?  Are you guys ready — I’m just talking to the kids here.  (Laughter.)  You guys don’t get to have fun, but here’s what you get:  We will take your children from you for a moment.  (Laughter and applause.)  Don’t applaud too loudly.  They’re still here.  They can hear you.  (Laughter.)  And you can enjoy some cider and some cookies.

And you guys want to come with me?  We’ve got some surprises in the back, and your parents will be here.  We’ll try to bring them back in one piece.  I can’t guarantee that they will be neat.  (Laughter.)  There is dye and food color — sorry.  (Laughter.)  All of it is washable!

All right, you guys ready to come and join me?  You all, thank you all so much.  Come to the White House.  It’s really cool.  Take care.

END
1:47 P.M. EST

Politics November 25, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes last Christmas tree of administration

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson and her dogs Bo and Sunny, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. The tree, a 19 feet tall Balsam fir, arrived at the White House on Friday and will be on display in the Blue Room during the holiday season. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 25: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson and her dogs Bo and Sunny, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2016 in Washington, DC. The tree, a 19 feet tall Balsam fir, arrived at the White House on Friday and will be on display in the Blue Room during the holiday season. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It is Christmastime at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama received the day after Thanks giving Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, the last Christmas tree she will decorate at the White House of her husband President Barack Obama’s administration. Unlike the last seven years, Mrs. Obama was not joined by her daughters Malia and Sasha, who also skipped this year’s pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Instead, the Obamas are being joined this holiday season by their youngest nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson. Along with her nephews the Obamas dogs, Bo and Sunny tagged along.

This year’s winning White House Christmas tree is “a 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir cross. The tree’s growers are Dave and Mary Vander Velden of the Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin the winners of this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest. The Association has picked the tree since 1966.

CNN reported that the Vander Veldens’s tree did not grow as large as the official tree needs to be and will be placed somewhere else within the White House decorations, and instead a tree donated from a Pennsylvania farm will be used as the official tree adorning the Blue Room of the White House. The Vander Veldens presented the tree to the First Lady at the White House’s north portico after it arrived in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. The carriage had jingle bells, while “a four-piece military band played “O Christmas Tree.”

When Mrs. Obama received the tree, she asked her nephews, “What do you think?” and then joked about her holiday substitutes, “These are our replacement kids. This is what happens when you get teenagers. One is asleep – these two are up.” The First Lady enthusiastically concluded, “Christmas begins. The holiday starts! We’re ready – our last one. We’re excited about it.”

As the First Lady looked over the tree, she said, “This is the easiest part of the holiday season.” For the entire weekend the White House staff will be decorating the executive mansion for the holidays, on Tuesday, Nov. 29 Michelle presents the finished product to the press and public. Then Thursday, Dec. 1, the Obama’s will light the National Christmas Tree in the Ellipse.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

Source: WH, 12-23-15

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 3, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Lighting of National Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 12-3-15

Ellipse

6:06 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:   Merry Christmas everybody!  Thank you, Betty, for that introduction, for your extraordinary service as one of our park rangers, and for all of your –- and your great-grandmother’s -– contributions to this country.  Please give Betty a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want tips from Betty on how I can look that good at 94.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank Betty’s boss, Jonathan Jarvis, and for everybody from the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for everything that they do to protect and care for America’s great outdoors –- and for helping us “find our park” this year and every year.  And thank you to Reese Witherspoon and each of tonight’s outstanding performers.  (Applause.)

Now, this is, of course, the most wonderful time of the year.  But we would be remiss not to take a moment to remember our fellow Americans whose hearts are heavy tonight –- who grieve for loved ones, especially in San Bernardino, California.  Their loss is our loss, too, for we’re all one American family.  We look out for each other in good times, and in bad.  And they should know that all of us care about them this holiday season.  They’re in our thoughts, they’re in our prayers, and we send them our love.  (Applause.)

Now, this is the 93rd time Americans have gathered by the White House to light the National Christmas Tree.  And as always, this tree is not alone -– all across America, in living rooms, and offices, churches, and town squares, families and neighbors are gathering to decorate trees of their own and get into the holiday spirit.  It’s a chance to come together and to focus on what really matters –- the simple gifts of family and friends.  The wonder and hope in a child’s eye.  And, of course, the spirit of giving and compassion that can help all of us find new meaning in the world around us.
That’s the message of the child whose birth families like mine celebrate on Christmas -– a prince born in a stable who taught us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we are our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ keepers; that we should feed the hungry, visit the sick, welcome the stranger.  These are the lessons of Jesus Christ.  But they’re also the bedrock values of all faiths –- values to be cherished and embraced not only during the holidays, but to be practiced in our daily lives.

So during this holiday season, let’s come together as brothers and sisters around the humanity that we share.  Let’s reach out to those who can use a hand.  Let’s summon the spirit of togetherness that’s always helped to kindle America’s shining example to the world.  And let’s keep in our prayers those Americans who protect that ideal, especially those stationed far from home during the holidays.  Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice so much for us.  And it’s because of them that we can celebrate freely, that we can worship as we please, that we can come together on a night like this -– strong, and united, and free.

So on behalf of Michelle, and Malia, and Sasha, and Grandma, and Bo and Sunny, happy holiday to all of you.  (Applause.)  May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
6:11 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

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

Political Musings December 21, 2014: Obamas celebrating Christmas and New Year’s holidays with 16-day Hawaii vacation

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obamas celebrating Christmas and New Year’s holidays with 16-day Hawaii vacation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This year as every year of his presidency President Barack Obama and the first family are spending their Christmas and New Year’s holiday in Kailua neighborhood of Oahu in Hawaii. The first family including the President, First Lady…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 19, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Year-End Press ConferenceFull Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

Source: WH, 12-19-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We’ve really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year.

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off.

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.

To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices.  We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.  And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.

In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We’ve set the stage for this American moment.  And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I’m looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions.  And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.

And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list.

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels.

THE PRESIDENT:  Brussels.

Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations.

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think —

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement.

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That’s not fair.

There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed.

So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.

Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that — the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind.

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.

THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven’t seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

Q    Okay, all right.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.)

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.)

Q    I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.

All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.

Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.

So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.

Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.

And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask — April, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We’re ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.

And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can’t be stopped.

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

END
2:45 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPT

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 12-25-13

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

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

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

THE PRESIDENTHello everybody, and happy holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.

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

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

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

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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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 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.

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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.

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