Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at the Children's National Health System

December 14, 2015

MRS. OBAMA: You guys want to hear "The Night Before Christmas?"


MRS. OBAMA: All right. Well, first of all, I'm joined here by Santa. Let's give Santa a round of applause. (Applause.) We have Stephen here to my right. My man Stephen. Let's give it up. (Applause.) We have the lovely Luna here to my left. Yay, Luna! (Applause.) And then we have the most famous Obamas -- we have Bo and Sunny Obama. Woo! (Applause.) They're being very -- you're being very good. Good job.

All right, so I'm going to read and then we're going to take some questions, okay? Are you guys ready? "The Night Before Christmas." I'm going to read a little bit and then try to show you the pictures, okay?

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

How many people have their tree up? Way to go! There's still a lot of you got some work to do. (Laughter.)

The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. And Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap, when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Isn't Christmas Eve the most exciting day of the whole year?


MRS. OBAMA: I mean, the anticipation, it takes your breath away, doesn't it, Stephen?

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave luster of midday to objects below, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

You know something about this.

SANTA: Absolutely.

MRS. OBAMA: How do you do it, Santa?

SANTA: It's magic.

MRS. OBAMA: It's magic. Feels like magic.

With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

Who's that? The one with the red nose?

CHILDREN: Rudolph!

MRS. OBAMA: I think it's Rudolph! But he doesn't name him here because Rudolph is special.

Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

He is flying! You are so cool, Santa. (Laughter.) Don't you think, Stephen? Amazing, Santa is.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky, so up to the housetop the coursers they flew with a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas, too. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

Has anybody ever heard Santa on their roof? (Laughter.) Stephen, your dad said he's heard them. (Laughter.) He has heard them, and he didn't call the police. (Laughter.) Good man. Good man.

As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, and his clothes -- nice, soft -- and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. I love your red, Santa. It looks good. It really goes well with the white.

SANTA: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, Santa. His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples -- ooh, someone else has dimples here -- his dimples, how merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. (Laughter.) It's great having Stephen here for illustration. You're doing great, dude. (Laughter.)

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face, and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.

SANTA: Ho, ho, ho!

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, that's so good. (Laughter.) Do that again, Santa.

SANTA: Ho, ho, ho!

MRS. OBAMA: I love it! Can you do it, Stephen?

STEPHEN: Ho, ho, ho! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That's great. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. Because no one has to be afraid of Santa, okay? Santa is a good guy, right?

STEPHEN: But the Grinch -- bad guy.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, he was bad at first, but then he grew a big heart and he turned out to be pretty cool.

STEPHEN: But then it popped out of his --

MRS. OBAMA: It popped out -- it grew ten sizes bigger or something like that. (Laughter.)

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. Now, see, here's the thing about St. Nick -- he's a little overweight, but he's very healthy. (Laughter.) Because he stays active.

SANTA: Eat your vegetables.

MRS. OBAMA: Let's move, all right? (Laughter.)

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight -- let's do this together -- "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night." The end. (Applause.)

Yay! Great job, guys.

DR. NEWMAN: Thank you, Mrs. Obama. It's always so great to have you here with Sunny and Bo and Santa. And we just love hearing the story, but all of our kids, I know they're -- got some really serious questions that they might want to ask you.

MRS. OBAMA: Okay. I hope I can do it. You guys are tough.

DR. NEWMAN: Okay. So do we have some questions -- does somebody have a question? Right here.

CHILD: How can you tell them apart?

MRS. OBAMA: How can I tell Sunny and Bo apart? Okay, look closely -- Bo has white paws and a white little face, and Sunny is all black with just a little bit of white.

CHILD: Can we have a tea party at the White House? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: All of us? (Laughter.) You know what you can do? Everybody here can come and visit the White House. And anybody who feels like they're in good shape and they want to come and see the decorations -- because the White House is decorated so beautiful. We have more than 60 trees throughout the White House. So this is an invitation to anybody who wants to come. We will make sure that the staff here knows how you can arrange a visit, okay?

CHILD: And how did you get into Harvard?

MRS. OBAMA: How did I get into Harvard?

CHILD: Can you help me get into Harvard? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You want to get into Harvard? (Laughter.) You hear that, Harvard? What's your name, sweetie?

CHILD: Audrey (ph.)

MRS. OBAMA: Audrey what?

CHILD: Valdez (ph.)

MRS. OBAMA: Audrey Valdez is interested in admission to Harvard. You know what you need to do? You've got to study hard, okay? You've got to read a lot of books. You have to do your homework every day. You have to listen to your teachers and your mom and dad, all right? That's the start.

Now, when you get a little older, you can come check in and we'll talk some more. (Laughter.)

AUDREY: How did you --

MRS. OBAMA: All right, you've got to stop with your questions. (Laughter.) Way to go, Audrey.

Yes, all right. Tell me your name.

CHILD: I'm Jonathan (ph.) And my friend, Agnes, who is upstairs wanted me to ask you a question: If you can spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would you go?

SANTA: That's a good question.

MRS. OBAMA: That is really good. You know, where my family -- where we have made a tradition of spending Christmas every single year is in Hawaii. And that's where the President grew up, and that's where his family is. So we've been going to Hawaii now for more than 20 years, and that's like our family tradition. And because it's such an important tradition, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world.

That's a good question. Tell your friend thank you.

CHILD: What are you giving the President for Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA: Another President Christmas-present question. (Laughter.) All right, press, don't tell him. (Laughter.) He's going to get some workout stuff. (Laughter.) It's not going to be very interesting this year, honey. Sorry. (Laughter.) What do you think I should get him? Maybe you have some ideas.

CHILD: Give him more ties.

MRS. OBAMA: More ties? (Laughter.) Ties for you, babe. (Laughter.) All right, there's another question.

CHILD: Do Sunny and Bo get presents?

MRS. OBAMA: They do. They get lots of new toys and treats. They get presents every year, but they don't know what they're going to get this year so we're not going to talk about it. (Laughter.) Okay?

CHILD: Were Sunny and Bo naughty or nice this year?

MRS. OBAMA: They were very nice. They have been very good dogs. I mean, Sunny sometimes can be naughty. Because you know what she does sometimes? She leaves the kitchen and she'll sneak, and she'll go poop on the other end of the White House. (Laughter.) We're dealing with that problem. (Laughter.) But she sneaks and does it.

Who asked that question? I missed -- where were you? Was that you? What was that question. Okay. She's sneaky. So, Sunny, stop doing that. (Laughter.) But otherwise she's a -- they're both very good. They're very good ambassadors. They work very hard. They have their own schedule. They visit -- they see visitors. Everybody wants to see them and take pictures. I get a memo at the beginning of the month with a request for their schedules, and I have to approve their appearances. (Laughter.) Well done. But they've been good.

CHILD: What are Malia and Sasha's favorite holiday movies?

MRS. OBAMA: Their favorite holiday movies? I'm not sure. I like the Grinch, so I'm assuming they like the Grinch. I like the Peanuts Christmas. And because -- you know, the first Christmas movie we play -- we all kind of like the Grinch. We like the Whos in Whoville and the song they sing. That's one of my favorites. It's touching. Gets me right here, Stephen. It's a compelling story, the story of the Grinch.

STEPHEN: I watch it a lot.

MRS. OBAMA: He watches it a lot. What do you like, Luna? Do you like it?

LUNA: I've honestly never seen the Grinch.

MRS. OBAMA: You've never seen the Grinch? (Laughter.) Okay. We've got to fix that this year. You've got to put that on your to-do list, okay? You promise me?

LUNA: Okay. I'll put it on the --

MRS. OBAMA: All right.

CHILD: Do you build snowmen at the White House?

MRS. OBAMA: When there's snow. (Laughter.) But you know, we have -- we do have snowmen this year as part of the decorations. On the First Lady's lawn we have more than 50 snowmen out on the lawn. They're not real, but they're lit up at night, and they're beautiful. So we put snowmen in this year. And thank goodness we did, because there is no snow. (Laughter.)

CHILD: My name is Joseph (ph.) And my question is what are Malia and Sasha getting for Christmas this year?

MRS. OBAMA: We're not going to do that. (Laughter.) They don't really -- they're teenagers now. So what do you want? They want what you want. What do you want?

JOSEPH: I want money. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: That's just what they told me. (Laughter.) So it will be some version of that. They don't want me to waste my energy picking out stuff they don't want. So they'd rather just have the money. (Laughter.) More questions?



CHILD: We're here together.

CHILD: I'm Amara (ph.) What is your favorite family Christmas tradition?

MRS. OBAMA: Our favorite family Christmas tradition is traveling to Hawaii, because it's cool. (Laughter.) And what we do -- I've said this before -- we travel with a bunch of our family and friends, so there are a lot of families and a lot of kids. So we do a talent show. It's usually after Christmas. So every person or family has to come up with some kind of thing they do. It could be poetry, it could be music. I had this -- Bo and Sunny tricks one year. I hula-hooped one year.

So I don't know what I'm going to do for the talent show this year.

CHILD: So they come with you?

MRS. OBAMA: They do come, yes, they come with us. Whenever we go away for a long time, they go with us. All right, last question.

CHILD: What is your favorite holiday dish to make?

MRS. OBAMA: My favorite holiday dish to make? I'm not cooking that much. (Laughter.) But the favorite dish that my kids want for every holiday anytime is mac and cheese. Mac and cheese. You've got to have your side of mac and cheese, cheesy, creamy, cheese dripping. I make pretty good mac and cheese when I do cook, but I don't cook that much anymore.

All right, you guys.

DR. NEWMAN: Well, thank you, Mrs. Obama.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you! Well done.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the Children's National Health System Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321795

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