Be seated, please—except for you all. [Laughter]
I want to thank you very much and welcome you all to this year's Christmas Pageant of Peace. During this time of conflict and challenge, we once again celebrate the season of hope and the season of joy. We give thanks to our Nation and to our families and to our friends.
The First Lady and I are so honored to be here. I want to thank Peter Nostrand and the committee for putting this together, and I particularly want to thank the entertainment committee—the person in charge of getting these fantastic entertainers to come tonight. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
I want to thank all the employees and sponsors who put on this magnificent event. I want to thank Fran Mainella, the Director of the National Park Service, and all the Park Service employees who have worked hard to put this event on.
I want to thank Santa Claus for being here tonight. [Laughter] I've been looking for you, Santa. [Laughter]
In a moment, we will light the National Christmas Tree, a tradition Americans have been celebrating since 1923. The history of this event has included some memorable moments, including 60 years ago, less than 3 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Prime Minister Winston Churchill made an appearance with President Franklin Roosevelt to light the tree.
Now once again, we celebrate Christmas in a time of testing, with American troops far from home. This season finds our country with losses to mourn and great tasks to complete. In all those tasks, it is worth recalling the words from a beautiful Christmas hymn. In the third verse of "O Holy Night," we sing, "His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Chains ye shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease."
America seeks peace and believes in justice. We fight only when necessary. We fight so that oppression may cease, and even in the midst of war, we pray for peace on Earth and good will to men.
This is a time of the year for families and friends to gather together, not simply to celebrate the season but to renew the bonds of love and affection that give fulfillment to our lives. And this is a year we will not forget those who lost loved ones in the attacks on September the 11th and on the battlefield. They will remain in our prayers.
It is now my honor to invite Leon Patterson and Faith Elseth and Laura to join me up here as we light the National Christmas Tree. Leon and Faith's fathers, Major Clifford Patterson and Lt. Commander Robert Elseth, served in the United States military. Both of these good men were lost in the attack on the Pentagon.
Leon and Faith, we thank you for helping us celebrate Christmas. You remind us of the comfort of Christmas, that hope never fails and love never ends.
And now, would you please help Laura light up our beautiful tree.