The First Lady Previews White House Holiday Decorations

The First Lady:
Good morning. Audience:
Good morning. The First Lady:
And Happy Holidays. All
right now, it’s Christmas. I know you guys are in the
military and you keep your kids — but they can scream! It’s Christmas! It’s exciting! They’re so disciplined. (laughter) Well, it’s good to have you all. I want to thank you all for
joining us today as we kick off the holiday season
here at the White House. And this is a very exciting time
here at the White House for me and our family. Now, looking around, it’s easy
to see and hopefully you guys have gotten to see a little bit,
but you’ll get to see more, but you can understand why
this is one of my favorite times of the year. It really is. First of all, seeing all you
beautiful kids dressed up and looking so smart and pretty
and beautiful in your dresses is just so exciting. But we’ve got — here at
the White House we have 19 Christmas trees in every
corner of the White House. So there are 19 Christmas
trees here, right? So when you walk around
you count them, okay, to make sure that I was right. All right? We have a giant Bo made
out of pipe cleaners. Have you all seen that yet? Well, you’re going to see that. It’s pretty, pretty shocking. But it’s very cool
and he’s very soft. We have 350 pounds of
gingerbread house that you’ll get to see that took
our wonderful pastry chef Bill Yosses and his team and
entire month to create. It took him a
month to make this. So you guys are going
to get to see that. We also have some creative
stations that we’ll be doing some projects this afternoon. And I’m going to
help, hopefully, if it’s not too messy. And over the next few
weeks, more than 100,000 people will walk through
these halls to enjoy the decorations and get
in the holiday spirit. And you guys are some of the
first families to see the house. Do you realize that? Nobody else but our family and
our volunteers has seen this yet, so this is a very special
day, and we’re glad to have you. But in many ways, this is
really what the White House is all about. And I say this all the time. It’s the “People’s House.” It’s a place that is
steeped in history, but it’s also a place where
everyone should feel welcome. And that’s why my husband and
I have made it our mission to open up the house to as
many people as we can, especially during
the holiday seasons. So it goes without saying
that when you look around, that our family never could
have done all of this wonderful decorating on our own. In fact, we only did
a little bit of it. That’s why over the last few
days nearly 100 volunteers from all over the country
have been working so hard. They’ve been making all the
ornaments that — many of them that you’ve seen. They’ve been hanging the lights
and transforming these rooms into breathtaking works of art. And I have to say the house
looks more beautiful than it did last year. It is really something special. So I want to take a moment to
thank everyone who helped pull this house together —
all of our volunteers, all of the artists,
all the planners, all the White House staff. Every single person in the White
House is in involved in turning this house into
what you see today. And any and everyone who has
helped to bring joy to so many people, I want to thank you all
from the bottom of my heart for all the work that you’ve done. In the end, that spirit of
kindness and generosity is really what the holiday
season is all about. And it was the idea
behind this year’s theme, which is “Simple Gifts”. That’s the theme this
year, “Simple Gifts,” because in the end, the
greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing
— the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms
we enjoy as Americans, and the joy we feel from
reaching out to those in need. And that’s why our holiday
decorations this season include a children’s tree, with some
beautiful gingerbread ornaments that were decorated by
children of our troops. And hopefully you’ll get a
chance to see that, as well. We also have a very special
Military Appreciation Tree in honor of our men and women in
uniform who can’t always spend the holiday season with the
people they love the most. It is the creation
of Deborah Mullen, my dear friend and the wife
of Admiral Mike Mullen, who has been an incredible
advocate for military families and is here with us today. So, Deborah, I
know you hate this, but please stand so
that we can thank you. (applause) We are also honored to be
joined by so many members of the military and
their families today, folks who show us every day with
their service truly what it means to put others above self. And as First Lady, I’ve had the
privilege of meeting our men and women in uniform on bases and in
hospitals and in communities all across the country. And I say this all the time,
but when I make those visits, I come away not just with a
sense of pride and gratitude, but also with a sense of awe,
both at their courage and their sacrifice and at their
commitment to serving their country and their communities. That’s what the folks here today
are doing with a very special program, “Toys for Tots,” that
is run by the Marine Reserves. Each of them has
volunteered their time, collecting and distributing
some of the millions of toys that will be delivered to
children this year. “Toys for Tots” is just one
example of how our military families are serving our
communities and Americans in need all around the
country, year-round. And I’m thrilled that the White
House staff will be supporting their efforts with a toy drive
to help make this holiday a little bit brighter for children
right here in the D.C. community. This is the second year
that we’ve participated. So I want to thank you
all so much for coming. I hope that you enjoy
yourselves here today. I want to thank you for
your service and your work. I want to thank your families
for the sacrifices you all make, especially our little people
who sacrifice just as much as the big people do. This is your time of year. So we wish you guys a happy
and healthy holiday season. We want you to enjoy this
day, this time here at the White House. Have fun. Moms, they’re going
to get a little messy, so just bear with them. So make sure you have fun. And now, I would like to
introduce the President and CEO of “Toys for Tots,”
Lieutenant General Pete Osman, who is going to share some
more of the details about this year’s program. So thank you all, and
let’s welcome the General. Thank you so much. (applause) General Osman:
Mrs. Obama, let me start off
with — by thanking you so, so much not just for
having us here today, but for what you did last year. For those of you who don’t know,
the First Lady last year stepped up and said she really wanted
to assist with “Toys for Tots,” and she did. I got to tell you that last
year we had an incredibly successful campaign. And there’s no doubt in my
mind that the First Lady standing behind it really
made it successful. So, Mrs. Obama, you
made a difference. Thank you very,
very much for that. (applause) The First Lady:
Thank you. General Osman:
Our First Lady made a difference
and certainly as she has pointed out so many times, our military
service members today are making a difference, certainly
Marines amongst them. Marines have an opportunity
though to make a difference in a very different way, not only in
the protection of our country, but also in helping those
less fortunate families and particularly less fortunate
children at Christmas time through the “Toys
for Tots” program. Those of you who don’t know it,
the Marine Corps has been doing “Toys for Tots” for 63 years. And over those 63 years, the
Marine Corps together with the thousands of volunteers have
been able to distribute over 400 million toys to almost
200 million children. What an accomplishment. But it couldn’t be done alone. It really is the generosity
of the American people that make it work. So I once again appeal to that
generosity of our American public to step forward and
once again buy that toy, drop it in one of our barrels. If it’s more convenient, go
online to “Toys for Tots” and make that online donation. It will make a difference. In fact, a $25 or $30 donation
goes a long way in helping a less fortunate child
at Christmas time. And let me share just a quick
story with you that will show you an example of what
I’m talking about. A couple of years back, there
was a wonderful family in D.C. — Mom, Dad, five kids. Happy family. And unfortunately,
tragedy struck. The father took ill and
quickly passed away. The mom, who had been
a stay-at-home mom, all of a sudden found herself
having to find a job while still raising her five children. She realized she was going to
have to make some tough choices, and she did. I mean, she had a house payment
to make, utilities, food to buy, clothing and all
that, and she said, “We’re going to have to
cut Christmas this year.” Now, she had to make
this decision early on, probably in the
October time frame. And she was comfortable with it. But as Christmas drew
nearer and nearer, she became very concerned. In fact, on Christmas
Eve, she was distraught. She was beside herself with the
thought on Christmas morning her children were going to come
downstairs and there weren’t going to be any gifts under that
little Charlie Brown Christmas tree that they had. Fortunately, the knock
at the door came, and standing there were two
Marines, a couple of volunteers, and a bunch of
boxes full of toys. So needless to say, for the
Johnsons the next morning, they had a wonderful Christmas. But that’s not the
end of the story. Interesting thing was one
of the toys was a big old red fire truck. And one of her sons really took
a liking to that fire truck. That became his favorite toy
that day and for the rest of the next year and actually
to years after that. And as you would have it,
that fire truck had an impact. Today, that man is
one of D.C.’s finest. He’s a firefighter with
the D.C. Fire Department. So if you don’t think that
toy makes a difference, just remember this story. And the great thing is, is there
are thousands of stories just like that out there. So I once again ask the
American public to dig deep, be the generous Americans that
you always are, buy that toy, put it in one of our barrels,
make that online donation. Believe me, it will
make a difference. Work together with our Marines,
our thousands of volunteers, and certainly the First Lady in
bringing the joy of Christmas and sending a message of
hope to America’s less fortunate children. One last thing. It’s only 24 days
’till Christmas. Thank you all very much. (laughter and applause) The First Lady:
Well, we are certainly all
going to do our part here at the White House. And one thing I remember last
year — and just to note — is that sometimes people forget
about the broad range of children in a family. And oftentimes,
I know last year, there were a lot of wonderful
toys for the little itty bitty ones, but then there was a gap
in toys for kids who were sort of beyond toy age. So also, American public, when
you’re out there shopping, thing about the cross-section,
think about the teenagers, think about the pre-teens. I know it’s exciting to go out
there and buy the cute little toys, and we do that as well,
but think about the spectrum as well as you shop. That’s one thing we focused on
here in the First Lady’s office is that segment of
the youth population. So we know people will
turn out this year. Sounds like people are
shopping away out there, and that’s a good thing. And people should
look for these boxes. Go online. We urge you to help make the
holidays special for every family in this country. And to the Marine Reserves, you
guys are amazing for what you do, because they do this on
top of what they normally do. There are a lot of good stories
in the work that these folks do on this program. So we’re very
grateful to you all, and we’re going to do our part. So thanks so much. And now we have a special
surprise for the kids who are here. I want to bring out three of our
amazing White House artisans. We’ve got Laura Dowling
who is our florist, we’ve got Cris
Comerford, Bill Yosses, and several of the White House
chefs who are going to show us some of their holiday secrets. You ready to see some secrets? Want to see how some
of the stuff is made? You think — are
you ready for that? Children:
Yes. The First Lady:
Wait, wait, are you ready for that? Children:
Yes! The First Lady:
Okay, well, parents,
you guys can stay here. I know, they’ll be fine. (laughter) And breathe a little bit. And we should bring you
some eggnog or something. (laughter) But kids, if you stand up
and follow these guys, right, they’re going to take
you over to the room. I’ll come and meet
you guys over there. And you can learn some of the
secrets of how we do things here at the White House. Okay? Everybody march. We’re marching. All right, we’ll see
you guys over there.

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