Barack Obama photo

Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree

December 03, 2015

The President. Hello, everybody. Well, happy holidays!

Audience members. You too! Happy holidays!

The President. You know my crew: Malia, Sasha, Michelle, Grandma. Happy holidays to Reese and to everyone here tonight and everyone watching at home. Now, let's begin the process of lighting the tree. We've got a countdown going on. We're going to start at five. Here we go: five, four, three, two, one. Merry Christmas, everybody!

[At this point, the President exited the stage. He later continued his remarks as follows.]

Merry Christmas, everybody! Thank you, Betty, for that introduction, for your extraordinary service as one of our park rangers and for all of your—and your great-grandmother's—contributions to this country. Please give Betty a big round of applause. I want tips from Betty on how I can look that good at 94.

I also want to thank Betty's boss, Jonathan Jarvis, and for everybody from the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for everything that they do to protect and care for America's great outdoors and for helping us "find our park" this year and every year. And thank you, Reese Witherspoon, and each of tonight's outstanding performers.

This is, of course, the most wonderful time of the year. But we would be remiss not to take a moment to remember our fellow Americans whose hearts are heavy tonight, who grieve for loved ones, especially in San Bernardino, California. Their loss is our loss too, for we're all one American family. We look out for each other in good times and in bad. And they should know that all of us care about them this holiday season. They're in our thoughts, they're in our prayers, and we send them our love.

Now, this is the 93d time Americans have gathered by the White House to light the National Christmas Tree. And as always, this tree is not alone. All across America, in living rooms, and offices, churches, and town squares, families and neighbors are gathering to decorate trees of their own and get into the holiday spirit. It's a chance to come together and to focus on what really matters: the simple gifts of family and friends; the wonder and hope in a child's eye; and of course, the spirit of giving and compassion that can help all of us find new meaning in the world around us.

That's the message of the child whose birth families like mine celebrate on Christmas, a prince born in a stable who taught us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves; and that we are our brothers' keeper and our sisters' keepers; that we should feed the hungry, visit the sick, welcome the stranger. These are the lessons of Jesus Christ. But they're also the bedrock values of all faiths, values to be cherished and embraced not only during the holidays, but to be practiced in our daily lives.

So, during this holiday season, let's come together as brothers and sisters around the humanity that we share. Let's reach out to those who can use a hand. Let's summon the spirit of togetherness that's always helped to kindle America's shining example to the world. And let's keep in our prayers those Americans who protect that ideal, especially those stationed far from home during the holidays. Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice so much for us. And it's because of them that we can celebrate freely, that we can worship as we please, that we can come together on a night like this strong and united and free.

So on behalf of Michelle and Malia and Sasha and Grandma and Bo and Sunny, happy holidays to all of you. May God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:06 p.m. on the Ellipse at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to his mother-in-law Marian Robinson; actor Reese Witherspoon; and Betty Soskin, park ranger, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA.

Barack Obama, Remarks on Lighting the National Christmas Tree Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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