Remarks by the First Lady at the Children's National Medical Center
MRS. OBAMA: All right. How's everybody doing?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes? You guys excited about Christmas?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Well, we're going to read one of my favorite Christmas tales, "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." Can everybody hear me? Can you hear me? Are we good?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. All right, okay. Here we go.
'Twas the night before Christmas -- Sunny, you ready? 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. You know this one, Santa, right?
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. Has anybody had any sugarplums dancing in their heads? Me neither. (Laughter.) I wonder where they got that from.
And Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled our brains for a long winters nap.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, mom! (Laughter.) Help me! (Laughter.) Oh, no. Oh, goodness. All right, this is the night before Christmas. How many people like the night before Christmas, Christmas Eve? (Applause.) It's exciting, isn't it?
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang to the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. What do you think was going on out there? Any guesses? Well, let's find out! (Laughter.)
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below. When what to my wondering eye should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Is that you, Santa? Oh, it's Santa!
With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be -- who?
AUDIENCE: St. Nick!
MRS. OBAMA: St. Nick.
MRS. OBAMA: Or Santa. That's another name, it's true.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name -- do you guys know the reindeers' names?
MRS. OBAMA: There is Rudolph, but he for some reason isn't in this story. (Laughter.)
Now, Dasher, now, Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen; on Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and --
MRS. OBAMA: Blitzen. Here they are, the mighty reindeer. Where did you find these reindeer, Santa? The best of the best.
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall -- now dash away, dash away, dash away, all! As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky -- these reindeer are awesome. (Laughter.)
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew with the sleigh full of toys -- and St. Nicholas, too. How many people have ever seen Santa delivering toys on Christmas -- you've seen him? Oh, Santa, you're slipping. (Laughter.)
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 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 toe, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot -- it was really his foot. I messed up that one. (Laughter.)
A bundle of toys he flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his sack. His eyes, how they twinkled; his dimples, how merry. His cheeks were like roses; his nose like a cherry. (Laughter.) His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. See, our -- Santa, do you agree this is a good like -- good-looking guy. (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 -- come on, Santa.
There we go. (Laughter.) That's it.
He was chubby and plump and 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 -- that means you never have to be afraid of Santa Claus, right?
MRS. OBAMA: Never, ever. Santa is all good.
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. 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 as he drove out of sight -- what did he say -- Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. That means on Christmas Eve you're supposed to go to bed. (Laughter.) You're not supposed to stay up late on Christmas -- go to bed. That's the message from Santa Claus, right, parents?
MRS. OBAMA: Go to bed! All right, here -- this is -- oh, I'm sorry, Bo. Not yet. You can sit. Down.
* * * * *
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. Okay. There are people with -- you guys figure it out. I'm not going to pick. It's too hard. Go ahead.
MODERATOR: So, yes, Mrs. Obama -- sorry, we're in the corner here. We've got a young man who has a question.
Q: Hello, Mrs. Obama. My name is Jaytlin (ph) and my question for you today is: What's your favorite holiday song?
MRS. OBAMA: What's my favorite holiday song? Chestnuts roasting on an open -- oh, I forgot the press was here. (Laughter.) Okay, you guys, all right, can we just, you know? (Laughter.) Have you heard that song before? That's an oldie. That's one of my favorites. Thanks for the question.
Next question. All right.
Q: Mrs. Obama, my name is Jaden (ph), and my question is, what was your favorite Christmas tradition as a kid?
MRS. OBAMA: What's my favorite what?
Q: Christmas tradition as a kid.
MRS. OBAMA: Christmas tradition as a kid? Getting toys on Christmas Day. (Laughter.) That was a great tradition. I loved that. No, I'm serious, that was it. That was the tradition I loved. (Laughter.) I loved Christmas Eve, when you knew you were going to get toys, and then Christmas morning, when you got the toys! This is a great tradition! (Laughter.)
All right, next question.
MODERATOR: Right here, Mrs. Obama, to your --
Q: What are you getting Sunny and Bo for Christmas?
MRS. OBAMA: Okay. Close your ears. Close your ears. (Laughter.) They are getting chew toys. (Laughter.) Yes, lots of the hard ones because they chew their toys up. So they're going to get more doggie toys.
Okay, next. Right here.
Q: Hi, Mrs. Michelle. (Laughter.) What did Sasha and Malia ask Santa for this year?
MRS. OBAMA: You know what? They didn't ask for much this year. I have to honestly say -- Malia wanted a cell phone, but then her father got it for her, and I was like, you messed it up. (Laughter.) It's like, that should have been a Christmas gift. So we're -- I can't say this. They're going to get stuff. They don't know what they're going to get. They're going to get small things. We don't do a lot of big gift-giving. They get to ask for three things, and they usually stick to -- where are you going, Sunny? So there's nothing that they really, really just want.
All right. Anybody else? Who's got the mic? All right.
Q: Do Sunny and Bo like snow?
MRS. OBAMA: They have -- I don't know if -- Sunny hasn't seen snow. Bo loves snow, but sometimes it takes them a second to figure out what it is. So when Bo -- the first time he came out of the door and there was snow on the ground, he literally turned around and went back in the house. (Laughter.) It was sort of like, whoa, I don't understand what this is. But Bo really loves the snow. He loves that -- the one year when we had the huge snow storms and the drifts were really high, he would just -- he would, like, bounce through the snow because he'd get lost in the snow. So he would just sort of hop. But yes, they like the snow.
SANTA: -- my reindeer.
MRS. OBAMA: I think Sunny would be much better. She's faster. He's a little slow. He's getting old. (Laughter.)
Next question. Yes?
Q: Hello, my name is Lauren (ph). What's your favorite Christmas treat to eat?
MRS. OBAMA: My favorite Christmas treat to eat? Oh, that's good. Gosh, that's a hard one. I like pumpkin pie. Is that considered a Christmas treat? What?
Q: That's my favorite.
MRS. OBAMA: That's your favorite? Pumpkin pie? Do you like whipped cream on it? Yes. The President loves pumpkin pie. That's for sure his favorite treat.
Next question. Hey.
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Kingston! (Laugther.)
MRS. OBAMA: What's going on?
Q: How many Christmas trees are there in the White House?
MRS. OBAMA: There are over 40. There are about 44 Christmas trees in the White House. Yes. (Laughter.) Is that what -- (laughter.) All right. You're busted. (Laughter.) Oh, that's why I love kids.
All right, another question. Yes, sweetie.
Q: Hi, Mrs. Obama.
MRS. OBAMA: Hi, sweetie.
Q: My name is Gabby (ph), and you look very beautiful.
MRS. OBAMA: You, too. What happened to your teeth? Who took them?
Q: They're all gone now.
MRS. OBAMA: They're gone now. (Laughter.) Did you get something in return for those teeth?
Q: Yes, I got $5 for both of them.
MRS. OBAMA: Ooh, nice -- inflation. (Laughter.)
Q: No, wait, one was seven.
MRS. OBAMA: One was seven, and one was five?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, one had more value. What do you think the tooth fairy was thinking?
Q: I was just lucky.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, just lucky, just lucky. What's your question, sweetie?
Q: What are you getting -- what present are you getting for the President?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, okay. All right, you guys, don't put this in the papers because he's going to read it tomorrow. I might get him some workout clothes. (Laughter.) Well, that's what he wanted, though. He said that's what he wanted. Don't think -- I'm not forcing my husband to work out. (Laughter.) Don't think -- there's going to be some Let's Move joke about how I'm strapping him to the treadmill. No, he likes to work out. Yes.
All right, next question.
Q: Hi, my name is Kaley (ph). Where do you hang your stockings at the White House?
MRS. OBAMA: Our tradition is that we go to Hawaii, where the President grew up, every year. We're going to leave Friday. So we hang our stockings in the house that we stay in. There's a mantelpiece by the tree. And sometimes we hang them when we come back and open gifts -- we have them in the Yellow Oval Room. That's one of the rooms in the White House. If you look from the South Lawn, you'll see these balconies that curve. They're sort of oval, and there are two of them, and one is the Blue Room, and then upstairs where we live, the top one is the Yellow Oval, and that's where we have our main gift tree. That's where we put our stockings.
MRS. OBAMA: Yes. (Laughter.) More questions right here.
Q: Hi, Mrs. Obama. My name is Gracie (ph). What's your favorite holiday movie?
MRS. OBAMA: Movie?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, one of the kids I visited was watching "A Christmas Story." And I like "It's a Wonderful Life." That's one of my favorites. And I like "A Charlie Brown Christmas." And I like "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." (Laughter.) I like when the Whos gather around the tree, and it's, "Dah Who Doraz" and they open up and let the Grinch come in, and they close back up like a gate. That's my favorite part. I could go on. I like a lot. I like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I like that animation. I love those things.
What about -- what are you guys' favorites? Okay, what's your favorite?
Q: -- "The Santa Clause."
MRS. OBAMA: The movie "The Santa Claus?" All right, next question. Oh, yes, sweetie?
Q: Hi, Mrs. Obama.
MRS. OBAMA: Hi, sweetie.
Q: My name is Jaylen (ph). Do you prefer a Christmas with snow or one without?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, that's a good one. Okay. The truth is, now that I'm older, I prefer a Christmas without snow. (Laughter.) But when I was younger I really thought that Christmas meant you had a lot of snow, because Santa needed snow to land on for his sleigh and his reindeer, but as I got older I realized that Santa comes everywhere regardless of the snow. But I grew up in Chicago, and Chicago, it was always snowy, so that always felt like Christmas. But now when you're older, old people, snow is a hassle. You've got to shovel it. And then when the ice forms on your car window shield, there's nothing worse than scraping that off. Come on, people. You've got -- (laughter) -- that's kind of a hassle. But that's just what us old people think. Young people, snow is beautiful. It's a beautiful thing.
Next question. Who's got the mic?
MODERATOR: We have a question over here.
MRS. OBAMA: Where's over here?
Q: Can I just say, I'm glad I came to the hospital today? (Laughter.) What is the best Christmas gift you ever got?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, the best Christmas gift I ever got? Wow. I'm sure it was something when I was little that I didn't think I was going to get, something that Santa brought. I'm sure it was some Barbie-related thing. When I was little, I loved Barbie dolls, and I had everything Barbie. I had the townhouse and the car and all the little outfits, and the shoes that never stayed on their feet. So you lose the shoes.
But this is one of my favorite traditions now as an adult. I have to say, coming to see you guys at the hospital and coming to visit the kids who can't come downstairs, and then hanging out with you guys -- I rarely -- I don't take questions from the press. They will tell you that. I only take questions from you guys once a year, here at the Children's Hospital. So this is a good gift for me. This right here, this is a great gift. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: I think we have time for two more questions.
MRS. OBAMA: All right, two more questions. Okay. I'm not looking at who's going to ask. I'm not going to pick. Just --
MRS. OBAMA: Hi, sweetie.
Q: Hi, Mrs. Obama. My name is Sierra (ph). I know your birthday is coming up and I just wanted to know what you're going to be doing -- like, if you're going to be celebrating at all?
MRS. OBAMA: I'm going to be 50. Yes, 50. (Applause.) Fifty. Fifty and fabulous. January 17th. And I'm not exactly sure yet what I'm going to do, but it might involve some dancing. (Laughter and applause.) A little Dougie.
Q: Mine is the 15th.
MRS. OBAMA: Yours is the 15th? Capricorn! (Laughter.) How old are you going to be?
MRS. OBAMA: Thirteen? You're much younger than me. (Laughter.) But believe me, your best years are ahead of you. Yes, yes.
All right, we've got one more? Who's our last -- who's our final question? You are funny. (Laughter.)
Q: Did you -- my name is Matthew Braithwaite (ph). Did you decorate one of the Christmas trees in the White House?
MRS. OBAMA: One of our traditions is that -- because there are 44 trees, and we have volunteers who come in from all over the country to help us decorate the White House, because there's no way that we can do it -- although the President, he always tells people that he did everything -- (laughter) -- but between you and me, he does nothing. (Laughter.) But we have one tree -- the tree that's in the Yellow Oval Room that I talked to you about. The girls like to -- they like to decorate one tree.
So after the White House is decorated, we welcome the first set of volunteers. We have a tradition where just us, the family, and these two if they're paying attention, we go to the Yellow Oval Room; they leave, like, half of the tree undone because it's a big tree -- it would take forever to finish -- and they leave some ornaments. We have hot chocolate. That's probably the best part of the tradition for the girls. And that's the first night that I played my Christmas music playlist on my iPod. (Laughter.) That's when we know that it's Christmas.
So we take time after dinner. The girls have finished their homework. We do that. So we decorate about half of one tree in the Yellow Oval Room. And this year, I have to say, the President actually put most of the ornaments on the tree -- because he says I'm bossy, so I just sat back and let them do it. So he and Sasha did most of the work, and me and Malia, we drank a lot of hot chocolate. (Laughter.)
You guys, thanks so much. (Applause.) Here's the thing -- I want you all to be good. Be good, even after Christmas is over. Be good, eat your vegetables. Listen to your parents. Did you hear that one? Listen to your parents. Study. Work hard in school, okay? Everything you want to be in life starts with getting a good education, and that's the secret to success, okay? And know that the President and I, that we love you guys and we're very proud of you, okay?
So have a merry Christmas. And Sunny and Bo and I, we're going to walk around, and whoever wants to pet them can; whoever doesn't, just back away. All right, you ready? You ready to see these little people?
MODERATOR: Mrs. Obama, thanks for taking time out of your schedule.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much. (Applause.
Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady 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/320186