President Obama Delivers Remarks at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

President Obama Delivers Remarks at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony


The President:
Hello, everybody. (applause) Is everybody
ready to count down? Audience: Yes. The President: We’re
going to start from five. We want to say thanks, first
of all, to Tom and Rita. We hope they’re ready. We hope everybody watching
at home is getting in the Christmas spirit. We’re going to start
counting down right now. Let’s do it. Five, four,
three, two, one. (cheering) Hey! (music playing) Mrs. Obama: I’d love
to see you too. Are we ready to read? Female Speaker: I’m ready. Mrs. Obama: All right,
you ready for the story? Children: Yes. Mrs. Obama: T’was the night
before Christmas when all through the house not a
creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Female Speaker: The
stockings were hung by the chimney with care in
hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there. Mrs. Obama: The children
were nestled all snug in their beds while visions
of sugar plums dances in their heads. And mama in her kerchief,
and I in my cap had just settled down for
a long winter’s nap. Female Speaker: When out
on the lawn there rose such a clutter. I sprang from my bed to
see what was the matter. Mrs. Obama: Away to the
window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters
and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast
of the new fallen snow gave a luster of
midday to objects below. Female Speaker: When what to
my wondering eye should appear but a miniature sleigh
and eight tiny reindeers. Mrs. Obama: With a little old
driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it
must be Saint Nick. Female Speaker: More rapid than
eagles, his cursors they came, and he whistled and shouted,
and called them by name. Now Dasher, now Dancer,
now Prancer and Vixen, on Connor, on Cupid, on
Donner, and Blitzen. Mrs. Obama: To the top of
the porch to the top of the wall, now dash away,
dash away, dash away all. As dried leaves before
the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an
obstacle mount to the sky. Female Speaker: So up to the
house top the courses they flew, with sleigh full of
toys and Saint Nicholas too. Mrs. Obama: And then in
a twinkling I heard on the roof the prancing and
pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head
and was turning around, down the chimney Saint
Nicholas came with a bound. Female Speaker: He was dressed
all in fur from his head to his foot, and all his
clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. Mrs. Obama: A bundle of toys
he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler
just opening his pack. His eyes, how they twinkled;
his dimples, how merry. His cheeks were like roses,
his nose like a cherry. Female Speaker: His droll
little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the
beard on his chin was as white as the snow. Mrs. Obama: The stump of
a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke,
it encircled his head like a wreath. Female Speaker: He had a raw
face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed
like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump,
a right old jolly elf, and I laughed when I saw
him in spite of myself. Mrs. Obama: A wink of his eye
and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I
had nothing to dread. Female Speaker: He
spoke not a word, but went straight to his
work, and filled all the stockings in
turn with a jerk. And laying his finger
aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up
the chimney he rose. Mrs. Obama: He
sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a
whistle, and away they all flew like the
down of a thistle. Female Speaker: But I heard
him exclaim as he drove out of sight — In unison:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” (applause) Mrs. Obama:
Good job. Is that okay? Okay. Good job. 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.

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