Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady During a Holiday Reception with Children, Parents and Staff at the Children's National Medical Center

December 13, 2010

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Can everybody hear me?


MRS. OBAMA: Well, it's good to be back. Last year I came I had two additional guests. Malia and Sasha came with me. But they're in school, so they couldn't come.

But Bo got ready. He's clean -- (laughter) -- so when we're finished, anybody who --

CHILD: And he's groomed.

MRS. OBAMA: And he's groomed. Thank you, Gabriel. (Laughter.) He is groomed. So anybody who wants to pet him when we're done, we'll walk him around, okay?

And I don't know if you remember last year, but Bo barked at Santa. (Laughter.) But this year, Santa and Bo have become fast friends. (Laughter.)

SANTA: Absolutely.

MRS. OBAMA: So with that, I'm going to read one story, and then I'll be able to answer any questions you guys have. This is a Christmas classic. It's a favorite. I read it earlier this week, was it, at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, so I'm going to read it to you guys. It's "The Night Before Christmas." All right?

You ready?


MRS. OBAMA: Oh, not you, Bo. (Laughter.) Oh, man, he was doing so well. (Laughter.) Come here, Bo. Bo! All right, I'm going to let him go. (Laughter.)

CHILD: Good boy.

MRS. OBAMA: He's good. He's good. He'll be fine.

Okay, we ready?


(Mrs. Obama reads "The Night Before Christmas.")

MR. ZECHMAN: Mrs. Obama?


MR. ZECHMAN: Thank you so much. And I was told that you might have a couple of minutes for a couple questions?


MR. ZECHMAN: So, boys and girls, do you have some questions for the First Lady?

CHILD: Where's Bo?

MRS. OBAMA: Where's Bo? Where's Bo? Bo is around. We're going to bring him out at the end.

Okay, we have a question.

CHILD: What's your very first Christmas -- oh, hold on. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: It's okay.

CHILD: I don't remember what I just -- what is your favorite Christmas tree in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, that's a good question, sweetie. That's a very good question.

You know, there is -- the biggest Christmas tree that's in the White House is in a room called the Blue Room. And I don't know if you guys were watching TV, but that's the tree that they bring in the day after Thanksgiving with the horse-drawn wagon, and we have to go outside and look at it and make sure it's just right. Well, that tree this year is decorated by some of the art students. So some art students decorated it and they put ribbons on it that represent each of the states. And the theme for this year at the White House is "Simple Gifts."

CHILD: -- states --

MRS. OBAMA: That very -- those states, absolutely, those United States.

But the theme this year is "Simple Gifts" because what we're trying to remember is that Christmas can be celebrated with some of the most basic things. You don't need a lot of money. You don't always have to have toys and lights and glitter. You can have ribbons and hay and paper and recycled materials, and you can make them look beautiful.

So a lot of the ornaments are made out of fresh dried fruits, and there are newspapers that are folded in really interesting ways that look beautiful, and they're spray-painted; a lot of things that you can do at home with your moms.

So the big blue tree is decorated by some of the students in that way. So it's my -- that's my favorite tree.

Q: What did you get Bo for Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA: You know, I -- Malia and Sasha are actually responsible for shopping for Bo. And I don't know what they're going to get him, but they're probably going to get him some toys, because he loses his toys. They're everywhere. They're all over the White House, in the South Lawn. I mean, the dog is a mess. (Laughter.) He just leaves his toys everywhere. And then he loses them and then he's got nothing to play with. So we probably need to get him some more toys. All right?

What do you think? Do you think we should get him anything in particular? You got any ideas?

CHILD: A ball.

CHILD: A chewy.

MRS. OBAMA: A ball, a chewy. Okay, well, let's keep it down so he doesn't hear. (Laughter.) We want it to be a surprise, all right?

Q: What do you get the -- what are you going to get the President for Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA: Ooh. All right, look, look, the press is all like -- (laughter) -- because -- I'm not going to tell you because it's going to be in the paper tomorrow, and then he's going to read it, and then it won't be a surprise. But first I have to see whether he's been naughty or nice. I've been trying to figure that out. (Laughter.)

What do you think I should get the President?

CHILD: When you're nice.

MRS. OBAMA: Only if he's nice. Let's assume he's been nice. (Laughter.) What do you think? Any ideas? Any President gift ideas?

CHILD: What about a watch?

MRS. OBAMA: A watch? Okay, that's a suggestion. Any other ideas?

CHILD: A President bell.

MRS. OBAMA: A President bell? (Laughter.) How would that work?

CHILD: Well, first you put it on the rooftop.

MRS. OBAMA: A rooftop President's bell. (Laughter.) All right, we'll think that through. (Laughter.)

What about -- what do you think I should get him?

CHILD: You should get him a new suit. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Good idea. (Laughter.) The President needs a new suit. (Laughter.)

What do you think I should get him?

CHILD: Candy!

MRS. OBAMA: Candy! (Laughter.)

All right, let's take another question. Those are all great ideas.

Yes, sweetie.

CHILD: What did you ask Santa for this year?

MRS. OBAMA: You know, I didn't ask for anything in particular. One of the biggest gifts I got this year was -- we got it this morning. We signed an important law that helps make the school lunches more healthy. (Applause.) Yay. (Applause.) And that was my big Christmas wish. I was talking to Santa, "Oh, please, Santa, please bring this." And he did. So I got my gift early.

Yes, sweetie.

CHILD: What does your family do on Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA: What we do every year since the girls have been born, except for maybe one year, we go to Hawaii. And that's where the President is from, so his family is there. And because Hawaii is so far away, we often don't -- we don't -- only get to go there once a year. And you need a little time when you go to Hawaii because it's a long flight.

CHILD: But you can go to Disney.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Hawaii is not in Disney -- Disney is not in Hawaii, although the girls would like that. But it's on the way. It's in California. But we don't do that. And let's not talk about that because we don't want that to be an idea for the kids. (Laughter.)

But when we go there, we really just spend time with family. And we have a lot of fun traditions and places that we like to go -- and going to the zoo. Even though the kids are getting older, they still like to do the same things over and over again -- going to the zoo, going to get shaved ice, swimming in the ocean. And we have a lot of friends and family with us, so we go with a lot of people. So there are a lot of kids in one house, and everybody is noisy, and it's just fun.

Yes, what -- yes.

CHILD: How many chimneys are there in the White House? And which one does Santa go in?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow. You know, I don't know how many chimneys there are because there's a fireplace in almost every room in the White House. And I think that's because it was built in a time where big older homes were heated by fireplaces. So if you were going to be warm in a room, and these rooms are big with high ceilings, you had to have a fireplace.

Now, I've explained to Sasha that Santa will come down the chimney in the Yellow Oval Room because that's where the biggest tree in our house is. So the expectation is that Santa will use that chimney.

But you never know. I mean, you know, you don't know what you're going to do. Sometimes you've got to change it up.

CHILD: Don't get burned.

MRS. OBAMA: So you won't -- and you won't get burned. (Laughter.) We will make sure the fires are out.

SANTA: Yes, put the fires out. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That's a good -- that's a good thing, that's a good thing. We will see to it. Thank you for that reminder. Santa appreciates it.

Where is the mic?

CHILD: Can I --

MRS. OBAMA: Is it you again? (Laughter.)

More questions. We've got hands here. Let's make sure we get the mic over there. I lost the mic. The mic ladies.

CHILD: He's raising a hand over there.

MRS. OBAMA: Okay, we'll get -- we've got them back there.

CHILD: You know what, maybe you should get Barack Obama a new hot tub. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You think he's got an old hot tub? (Laughter.) All right, that's another recommendation. (Laughter.) We've got a watch, a new suit, candy and a hot tub! (Laughter.) Got it.


CHILD: Maybe you should get him his own ornament.

MRS. OBAMA: His own ornament! Well, what would it look like? What do you think?

CHILD: Blue.

MRS. OBAMA: What do you think we'd do with it? What would we put it on his --

CHILD: Hang it on the Christmas tree.

MRS. OBAMA: What should it look like? Should it have colors?

CHILD: All blue.

MRS. OBAMA: All blue? You know what, an idea -- that would be nice for you to make him an ornament and send it to the White House with your name on it.

CHILD: I want purple.

MRS. OBAMA: And purple, yes. Purple or blue --

CHILD: And gold, too.

MRS. OBAMA: And gold, too, yes, yes. Well, that's a great idea.

All right, we have a hand right here up front. Oh, wait, okay, we'll go there and then --

CHILD: What's your favorite thing to eat for breakfast on Christmas morning?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow, that's a good question.

CHILD: I usually eat Honey Nut Cheerios. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Okay, we're not going to do any advertisements. (Laughter.) But that is a healthy breakfast, it is.

CHILD: You should eat some cookies.

MRS. OBAMA: Some cookies? I don't usually eat cookies for breakfast.

You know, I don't know. I try to eat a light breakfast, because Christmas dinner is big, right, and I want to save room for Santa. Santa -- yes, Santa probably doesn't eat breakfast on Christmas because he's had all those cookies.

SANTA: Very full on cookies.

MRS. OBAMA: So he probably takes it light.


CHILD: How is it living in the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: How is it living in the White -- it's nice, it's very cool.

CHILD: Does it have a red carpet?

MRS. OBAMA: There are red carpets in the White House. There actually are some red carpets.

But the most fun thing about living in the White House -- and we say this all the time -- it's the People's House. And we live in a house that's like a museum. There's a part of the house that's a home, and it doesn't feel like a museum, but the rest of it is open to anybody in the world who wants to come and see. And there's so much history.

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. That means that 43 other families have lived there and created memories, and they've created history. And all that stuff is all on the walls, from the furniture to the pictures, to the carpets. And you can learn about that when you go.

So I hope that each of you guys at some point in your lives, in your young lives, you come and visit the White House. It's particularly fun at Christmas because it's all decorated. There are 19 trees. But even when it's not Christmas, there's always a special place to visit.

So hopefully all of you will ask your families to bring you to come see us at the White House. All right?

You guys, they're a very bright crew here. (Laughter.)

MR. ZECHMAN: Those were great questions. I assume some of them are going to end up on that back podium some day. (Laughter.)

So Mrs. Obama, I want to thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my pleasure. (Applause.) Thank you, guys.

MR. ZECHMAN: I want to thank our musicians who are going to sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" in just a second.


MR. ZECHMAN: Thank you again, and Merry Christmas and God bless to you and your family.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. I'll walk around with Bo.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady During a Holiday Reception with Children, Parents and Staff at the Children's National Medical Center Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320667

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