Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Evening Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

7:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  HelloGood evening, everybody!  Welcome to the White House, and Happy Hanukkah!  (Applause.)  It so happens we’re a little early this year.  (Laughter.)  But Michelle and I are going to be in Hawaii when Hanukkah begins, and we agreed that it’s never too soon to enjoy some latkes and jelly donuts.  (Laughter.)  This is our second Hanukkah party today, but in the spirit of the holiday, the White House kitchen has not run out of oil.  (Laughter.)  Dad jokes for every occasion.  (Laughter.)

I want to recognize some special guests that are with us today.  There are a number of members of Congress here who obviously are so supportive of the values that are represented by this holiday and extraordinarily strong friends of Israel.  We’ve got Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got one of the country’s finest jurists, who I happened to have nominated to the Supreme Court and who’s going to continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. circuit, Merrick Garland is here.  (Applause.)

Our wonderful and outstanding and tireless Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, is here.  (Applause.)  As is our U.S. Trade Representative and former B-B-Y-O president, Mike Froman.  (Applause.)  And I want to give it up for our outstanding musical guests, Six-Thirteen, who just did a amazing performance for Michelle and I of a “Hamilton” remix talking about the Maccabees, and the President, and menorahs, and —

MRS. OBAMA:  It was good.

THE PRESIDENT:  If you ever have a chance to get the mix-tape, you should buy it.  (Laughter.)

Now, this is the eighth year that Michelle and I have hosted this little gathering.  And over the years, we’ve welcomed Jewish Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress.  We celebrated Alan Gross’s return from captivity in Cuba.  (Applause.)  We got to celebrate a once-in-70,000-year event, Thanksgivvikuh — (laughter) — where we lit the “Menurkey.”  (Laughter.)  That was a turkey-shaped menorah, in case you forgot.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  We got it.

THE PRESIDENT:  So this is a White House tradition that we are proud to carry on.  It gives us a lot of nakhas.  (Laughter.)  If I pronounced that right, then that was a Hanukkah miracle.  (Laughter.)

Tonight, we come together for the final time to tell a familiar story — so familiar that even we Gentiles know it.  But as many times as we tell it, this 2,000-year-old tale never gets old.  In every generation, we take heart from the Maccabees’ struggle against tyranny, their fight to live in peace and practice their religion in peace.  We teach our children that even in our darkest moments, a stubborn flame of hope flickers and miracles are possible.  (Applause.)

That spirit from two millennia ago inspired America’s founders two centuries ago.  They proclaimed a new nation where citizens could speak and assemble, and worship as they wished.  George Washington himself was said to have been stirred by the lights of Hanukkah after seeing a soldier seek the warmth of a menorah in the snows of Valley Forge.  And years later, Washington wrote that timeless letter we have on display today in the White House — I hope you saw it when you walked in.  Washington assured the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  (Applause.)  He went on to write that all that is required of those “who live under [the nation’s] protection” is that they be “good citizens.”

It’s easy, sometimes, to take these fundamental freedoms for granted.  But they, too, are miraculous.  They, too, have to be nurtured and safeguarded.  And it’s in defense of these ideals — precisely because the Jewish people have known oppression — that throughout our history, this community has been at the forefront of every fight for freedom.  It’s why Jews marched in Selma, why they mobilized after Stonewall, why synagogues have opened their doors to refugees, why Jewish leaders have spoken out against all forms of hatred.

And in my last months in office, I want to thank you for all your courage, and your conviction, and your outspokenness.  (Applause.)  The story of this community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  They’re a little cynical.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, they’re not cynical.

MRS. OBAMA:  Little doubtful.

THE PRESIDENT:  The menorah we light today is a testament such resilient optimism.  It belonged to Rina and Joseph Walden, a young Polish couple who acquired it in the early 1900s.  When the Second World War came, the Waldens fled to France and took shelter on a farm.  And they hid their Jewishness, including their magnificent menorah, entrusting it to a courageous neighbor.  But one Hanukkah, they retrieved their menorah and lit it behind locked doors and covered windows.  That same week, the Nazis raided their neighbor’s house and burned it to the ground.  Of all the Walden family’s treasures, only this menorah survived.

A few years later, the Waldens moved to Israel, where their son Raphael met a young woman named Zvia Peres — the only daughter of one of Israel’s founding fathers and greatest statesmen.  And I had the honor to go to Jerusalem earlier this year to bid farewell to my dear friend Shimon Peres and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the State of Israel.  We could not be more honored to have Shimon’s son, Chemi, his grandson, Guy, and his granddaughter, Mika, here with us tonight.  (Applause.)

The Walden-Peres family lit these lights when the State of Israel was new.  They’ve blazed it in the months after the Yom Kippur War and the Camp David Accords.  And tonight, Chemi and Mika will light this amazing heirloom in the White House.  And as they do, we hope all of you draw strength from the divine spark in Shimon Peres, whose miraculous life taught us that “faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.”  I hope it inspires us to rededicate ourselves to upholding the freedoms we hold dear at home and around the world — that we are able to see those who are not like us and recognize their dignity, not just those who are similar to us.  I hope it inspires us to continue to work for peace, even when it is hard — perhaps especially when it is hard.  (Applause.)

And, as Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport more than 200 years ago, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, in our paths.”

I’d now like to invite Rabbi Rachel Isaacs from Colby College and Temple Beth Israel in Waterville, Maine — which I said sounds cold — (laughter) — to say a few words and lead us in blessings.  But first, I have to get a box, because she’s a little shorter than I am.  (Laughter.)

(A prayer is offered.)

Well, we hope that you enjoy this celebration here at the White House.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, we could not be more grateful for your friendship and your prayers.  And we want to emphasize that although we will be leaving here on January 20th —

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  — we will meet you on the other side.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve still got a lot of work to do.  We look forward to doing that work with you, because it’s not something that we can do alone, and you’ve always been such an extraordinary group of friends that strengthen us in so many different ways.

I should also note that your singing was outstanding.  (Laughter.)  I think this was an exceptional group of voices here.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)

END
7:57 P.M. EST

Advertisements

Full Text Political Transcripts December 14, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-14-16

East Room

4:04 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Michelle and I want to be the first to wish all of you a happy Hanukkah.  I figure we’ve got to be first because we’re about 10 days early.  (Laughter.)

We have some very special guests in the house to share some latkes with, so I want to call them out.  We are, first of all, honored to be joined by Rabbi Steven Exler, the outstanding senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  (Applause.)  He also happens to be Secretary Jack Lew’s rabbi.  (Laughter.)   He taught my Director of Jewish Outreach, Chanan Weissman.  So he obviously is doing something right.  Also, let’s give it up for Koleinu, whose sound might be the most beautiful thing to come out of Princeton since the woman standing next to me.  (Applause.)  That was a good one, right?

MRS. OBAMA:  That was a good one.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons:  How a small group can make a big difference.  That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time.  How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation.  It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have.  The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world.  So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom.  The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith.  Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it — to publicize the mitzvah.  And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.  (Laughter.)

Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition.  Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be — and defending the rights of others to do the same — that’s our common creed.  That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window — not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance — these are one and the same.  Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody.  In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah.  And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays.  A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?”  And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz.”

The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year.  We lost a keeper of our collective conscience.  But we could not be more honored today to be joined by his beloved family.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here.  (Applause.)  His wife, Marion, is here, beautiful as always.  His son, Elisha, is here.  His daughter-in-law, Lynn.  And his grandchildren, Elijah and Shira.  (Applause.)  So today we’re going to light a menorah that Shira made a few years ago when she was in kindergarten.  (Laughter.)  And as is appropriate to the spirit of the season, it’s made of simple materials.  It’s got bolts and tiles and glue.  (Laughter.)  And it looks like some balsa wood.

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  What is it?

SHIRA WIESEL:  It’s actually melted wax.

THE PRESIDENT:  Melted wax.  (Laughter.)  Just saying.

Over the years, your grandfather also corrected me several times.  (Laughter.)  And it was always very helpful.  (Laughter.)

We’ve lit a number of beautiful menorahs here at the White House.  Some that weathered storms like Katrina and Sandy; others that were crafted by spectacular artists from Israel and the United States.  But I’ve just got to say, this is my favorite.  (Laughter.)  I think this is the most beautiful one that we’ve ever lit.  (Laughter and applause.)  And it’s a reminder that a menorah is not valuable because it’s forged in silver or gold.  It’s treasured because it was shaped by the hands of a young girl who proves with her presence that the Jewish people survive.  (Applause.)  Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled.  Each wick an answer to the wicked.  Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.

Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.

So let me close by saying I want to say how much Michelle and I appreciate the opportunities to have celebrated so many Hanukkahs with you in the White House.  You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year.  (Laughter.)  But — miracle of miracles — (applause) — it has lasted eight years.  It’s lasted eight whole years.  (Laughter.)  Nes Gadol Haya Po.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, the name “Hanukkah” comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication.”  So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.  (Applause.)

And with that, let me invite Rabbi Exler to say a few words before Elijah and Shira light the candles and get this party started.

Mr. Rabbi.  (Applause.)

END
4:13 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

8:03 P.M. EST

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

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

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

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

That’s what —

JUSTICE:  Yes.  (Applause.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Prayer is sung.)

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

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

END
8:15 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

4:21 P.M. EST

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thanksgivukkah.

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Team Thanksgivukkah is here!

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

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

MS. GITELL:  Right here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Prayer is sung.)

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

MS. SCHMITTER:  Okay.

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

END
4:31 P.M. EST

Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

A White House Hanukkah Celebration

Source: WH, 12-9-11
20111209 Hanukkah at the WH

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, delivers remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Officially, Hanukkah doesn’t begin for another 11 days — but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.

They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with U.S. Ambassardor to Israel Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.

Hanukkah, the President said, is “an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:”

Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.

Watch.

Download Video: mp4 (41MB) | mp3 (4MB)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at Hanukkah Reception

Grand Foyer

6:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good evening, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah — even if we’re doing it a little bit early.  (Laughter.)

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here.   The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house.  (Applause.)
We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here.  (Applause.)  We are thrilled to see her.  She’s one of my favorites, I got to — (laughter.)  I’ve got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here.  Where’s Jarrod?  (Applause.)  Hey, Jarrod.

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir –- (applause) — the Voice of Tradition -– for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit.  The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit.  We’re stretching it out.  (Laughter.)  But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.  (Laughter.)  That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart — even us Gentiles.  It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt.  Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple –- which should have lasted only one night –- ended up lasting eight.

It’s a timeless story.  And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.  And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else.  They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives.  Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today.  Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world.  Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations.  And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.  (Applause.)

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season.  And we never need an excuse for a good party.  (Laughter.)  So we are going to see all of you in a second downstairs —

MRS. OBAMA:  Aren’t we in the Blue Room?

THE PRESIDENT:  Or wherever we are.  (Laughter.)  I think we’re downstairs.  We are downstairs in the Map Room.  So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends.  We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.  The guys with whiskers, I won’t give you a kiss.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END 6:14 P.M. EST

Political Buzz December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama Hosts White House Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HOLDS HANUKKAH RECEPTION AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript — WH, 12-8-11

Obama celebrates Hanukkah at White House: President Barack Obama is marking Hanukkah as a story of “faith over doubt.”
Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden convened a Hanukkah celebration at the White House Thursday in an early celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Obama said the Hanukkah story was about “right over might, faith over doubt.” In the Hanukkah story, a small band of Jews rededicating a Jerusalem temple found that a one-day supply of oil kindled a flame instead for eight.
The president noted “our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 20. Obama joked that everyone needs to be “careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.” — AP, 12-8-11

  • Obama lights White House menorah at reception: President Obama hosted 550 people at the White House Chanukah reception.
    The annual event, held Thursday in Washington, was attended by the president and vice-president and their wives and attracted a mix of Jewish dignitaries from the political, community and cultural worlds. The president reiterated his “unshakable support” for Israel and noted that the festivities were being celebrated a week before the holiday begins.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” said Obama. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Chanukah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems.”
    The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed at the event, while the menorah used was made in a displaced persons camp after World War II and donated by the Jewish Museum in New York.
    “Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season,” Obama said. “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”… – JTA, 12-9-11
  • Obama celebrates Hanukkah in White House: President appears particularly jovial as he marks Jewish holiday earlier than usual. ‘The Hanukkah story is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,’ he says

    US President Barack Obama held a festive Hanukkah reception at the White House on Thursday and appeared to be in a particularly cheerful mood. Among the guests were his wife Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The story of Hanukkah is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,” he remarked.
    Getting into the holiday spirit Obama was brimming with jokes and good wishes. “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” he noted. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.”
    Addressing the US’s ties with Israel he said: “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
    Obama seemed particularly jovial as he said, “So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party.” He later noted, “We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.”
    Addressing the miracle of Hanukkah, the President said: “This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart – even us Gentiles.” He added, “And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.”…. – YNet, 12-9-11

  • Michelle Obama is hostess for early Hanukkah party: It’s beginning to look a lot like Hannukah. Michelle Obama and her husband, along with Joe and Jill Biden, welcomed 550 guests last night to the White House to celebrate the Jewish holiday, even though it doesn’t start until Dec.20.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” President Obama joked to the crowd, which included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ambassador to Israel Michael Oren.
    “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems…”
    He added, “And we never need an excuse for a good party.”… – USA Today, 12-9-11
  • Obama fights for Jewish support amid GOP attacks: …Firing back, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Romney’s comments “outrageous” and questioned his own policies. The White House cited military aid to Israel and support at the United Nations, and pointed to statements from Israeli officials backing up Obama’s assertion.
    The fiery debate will probably continue Wednesday when the GOP presidential candidates attend a Washington forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
    Obama campaign officials say they will be ready to respond. And the next day, Jewish leaders will be at the White House for briefings on Israel and a Hanukkah party, followed by an Obama speech next week to an expected audience of nearly 6,000 at a conference of the Union for Reform Judaism…. – AP, 12-6-11
%d bloggers like this: