Jimmy Carter photo

Christmas Pageant of Peace Remarks on Lighting the National Community Christmas Tree

December 15, 1977

Thank you. Merry Christmas, everybody.

This is a time of year when we try to forget our worries and our tribulations, our arguments and our differences, our doubts and fears about the future, and look on the positive side of life.

We try to search for confidence and for security. We try to reach out our hands to our friends, those whom we see every day and those whom we tend to forget during the rest of the year.

Christmas is also a time of tradition. This is a time to look back, to see the fine things of life that, because they are so good and decent, have been preserved.

This evening, we have a ceremony that will commemorate one of those commitments. For more than 50 years, since Calvin Coolidge lived in the White House, every single President has been over to join in the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. This also commemorates a continuity of beliefs--belief in one another, belief in our Nation, belief in principles like honesty and justice and freedom, and our religious beliefs, above all.

Ours is a nation of peace, and I thank God that our Nation is at peace. We not only preserve a peaceful life for those who live in the United States, but one of the major commitments of our leaders before me and now is to try to institute an opportunity for peaceful existence for others. In regions that might be torn with war, we try to bring friendship, and in regions of the world that are torn by disputes, we try to bring understanding.

We've seen two great leaders in recent weeks, the President of Egypt, the Prime Minister of Israel, lead in a dramatic way and, indeed, inspire the world with courage. And it is strange, isn't it, that it requires courage just to search for peace under some circumstances. Well, our Nation has been a bulwark where those who want peace can turn, and the staunchness of our commitment has been and can be an inspiration to others.

A few months ago, I designated December 15, today, as a day of prayer. And I hope that all of you in this great audience and all who watch and listen on television, radio, will make a special promise to yourselves during this holiday season to pray for guidance in our lives, purposes, guidance for the wisdom and commitment and honesty of public officials and other leaders, guidance that we can see our Nation realize its great potential and the vision that formed it 200 years ago, and guidance that we will fulfill our deepest moral and religious commitments.

We look back on our own personal lives. Cecil Andrus remembered his family. I remember my own when I was a child and when Christmas was a day that we thought about 365 days a year--looking forward with anticipation, trying to measure up with standards, looking around our shoulders to see who was watching our performance. And sometimes I know that when we look back, we tend to put a rosy attitude or picture of what actually occurred. My favorite poet is Dylan Thomas, and he wrote "A Child's Christmas in Wales," and he tried to point out the confusion that sometimes exists in the mind of an adult about childhood, when he said he couldn't remember whether it snowed 6 days and 6 nights when he was 12 or snowed 12 days and 12 nights when he was 6. But it didn't really matter, because the memory was precious even though it was slightly confused.

We've never seen it snow in Plains on Christmas, but we're going back to Plains next week to be with our friends, to be with our families, to be with those who have loved us throughout a lifetime and those whom we still love, for Christmas is also a time of celebration, of festivity, of enjoyment, of pleasure, of self-gratification, even. And there is no incompatibility between memories, religious beliefs, tradition, peace, and going back home and being happy. They all kind of tie together.

Our Nation is not one of solemn faces and sad demeanors, but our Nation is one of hope and vision and even happiness. And Christmas is a time to remind us that even when we do suffer and are disappointed in the United States and live even a dismal life, compared to our own immediate neighbors, compared to most of the rest of the world, we indeed have a joyous life and a wonderful life. God has blessed us in this country.

Well, in closing, let me say that Christmas has a special meaning for those of us who are Christians, those of us who believe in Christ, those of us who know that almost 2,000 years ago, the Son of Peace was born to give us a vision of perfection, a vision of humility, a vision of unselfishness, a vision of compassion, a vision of love.

Those are exactly the same words that describe our theme this year. The theme is "The American Family." And I hope that we'll make every effort during this Christmas season not only to bring our immediate family together but to look at the family of all humankind, so that we not any longer cherish a commitment toward animosity or the retention of enemies but that we forgive one another and, indeed, form a worldwide family where every human being on Earth is our brother or our sister.

Thank you for letting me come and meet with you and to remind each of you that Christmas is a time for recommitment of each life to the finest ideals that we can possibly envision.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:45 p.m. on the Ellipse. Following his remarks, he lit the National Community Christmas Tree with the help of his daughter, Amy.

Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus also spoke at the ceremonies.

Jimmy Carter, Christmas Pageant of Peace Remarks on Lighting the National Community Christmas Tree Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242995

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