Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at the Holiday Press Preview

December 03, 2014

MRS. OBAMA: Wow, it's good to see you guys. You guys are looking really nice. You going to be able to stay this clean for your parents, you think? (Laughter.) We've got some things for you to get messy with in a second, okay? I know, it's very exciting. (Laughter.) You guys look good, too. (Laughter.)

Welcome to the White House. It's our favorite time of year, and we're just very excited to have you all here. You talk amongst yourselves. You and Susan, you just do whatever you want. You're good. (Laughter.)

But I want to start by thanking Susan for that very warm and sincere, authentic introduction. It was really moving to me to hear your story, your path to being here this year. And I want to just thank you for spending the last few days helping to make this house look so beautiful. I think you guys outdid yourself this year. Each year -- yes, yes, it gets better and better every year. But more importantly, I want to thank you for your service and sacrifice as a Gold Star sister, and I'm so glad you got to decorate the Gold Star tree. I'm glad you had that experience.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you as well for being here. We have with us troops, veterans, wounded warriors from across our military here today to help us kick things off. We've got some tremendous military spouses here -- yay for our spouses -- (applause) -- including some of the spouses of our Combatant Commanders and Service Chiefs who are here today. It's good to see you. I'll see you guys tonight. (Applause.) And of course, we have some really fabulous, good-looking military kids here with us today. Give yourselves a round of applause. (Applause.) I like the hair. (Laughter.) Yes, you. (Laughter.)

But I have to tell you that your presence here today is a powerful reminder for all of us what this season is really all about. So often, we get caught up in the holiday rush –- all the plans for the menu, the logistics traveling to families, the shopping for people, the making your list, checking it twice. Sometimes we get caught up in all of that, but ultimately, that's not what this season is about. It's really about serving others. It's about giving more than we receive. And it's about showing those we love how much they mean to us.

And that's one of the reasons why, here at the White House, the holidays are a chance for us to show what our country is grateful for this holiday season, and that's all of you, the military families who serve our nation proudly and give us all so much. Because we know that too often, your stories of courage and strength often get lost in the shuffle. And there are a lot of people who don't realize what you all go through.

They don't know that military spouses often have to pick up and move their families again and again and again, often at the expense of their own careers. Many people don't know that you all are parents and grandparents and siblings, like Susan, who have lost those you love most in the world. And of course, they don't know about you kids and all that you have to go through. They don't know that oftentimes military kids have to start at a new school every couple of years, which means a tough transition for some of them, although they do it so bravely. And they're so smart, but they have to adjust to new classes and new friends and new teammates, and that's not always easy, right? But you guys get it done, but a lot of people don't know that.

But no matter what you all are going through -- this is the thing that really keeps me going -- is that you guys always, always step up. So many of you are the ones who are doing all the volunteering, more so than many average Americans. You're the ones who are cooking the meals for your neighbors and taking over the carpool. You guys are the ones who are organizing food drives and sending care packages. You guys are the ones who are volunteering everywhere -- in your congregations, school fundraisers, stepping up whenever your families and friends need you.

And as First Lady, one of my most important missions is to make sure that you feel this country's gratitude for everything that you do. And that's one of the reasons why Jill Biden and I, we've worked so hard through our Joining Forces initiative, because we want to make sure that you guys are honored and supported every single day. And that's why, once again, we are celebrating our military families with our holiday decorations here at the White House.

I don't know if you've noticed that, again, in the East Room [Landing], as Susan mentioned, we've got a tree adorned with ceramic star ornaments trimmed in gold and signed by Gold Star family members to honor their loved ones. That's how you kick off your experience here at the White House -- that the first tree you see. And then once again, we're giving folks a chance to pledge to serve their community here at the White House in honor of our veterans or military families, because we want to make sure that we're not just honoring these families during the holidays, but we're honoring you every single day of the year. And we get a wonderful response every year to those commitments, those pledges.

And then this year, our official White House tree, the big huge tree -- have you guys seen the biggest, hugest tree? Have you seen it? I think this is the biggest tree we've had. And this tree is in honor of our men and women in uniform. It is beautiful. We've got a tree that was so big that we had to take the hinges off of the front door and take the doors off -- literally -- just to get this tree in. Can you imagine that? (Laughter.) It's huge. It's the biggest tree ever. But it's beautiful, because it has patriotic ornaments and ribbons that read "America the Brave," as well as some wonderful cards created by children across the country to thank all of you for your service to our country. It's beautiful.

And in addition to these really wonderful tributes to our military families, we have some of a -- a few of the special touches to really build upon our holiday theme this year, which is "A Children's Winter Wonderland." I wish you could see their faces. (Laughter.) They're giving me a lot of personality here.

But this year, we've got some new twists. We've got a lot of fun, new technologies; we're playing with technology this year. For instance, in the Booksellers, where you saw the Bo animals -- did you see Bo and Sunny? Did you notice that there's a beautiful interactive snowscape projection on the East Wall? I haven't seen it yet. Did you see it? And you can wave your hands around and it can -- it looks like you're playing in the snow. You haven't seen it. Well, I haven't seen it either, so we'll make sure to get that covered. (Laughter.)

Have you seen the animated versions of Bo and Sunny? I haven't seen those yet either. Sunny's eyes move with a motion sensor. I hope it's working. (Laughter.) But it should be fun. And then we've got a selection of the winners of our 3D-printed ornament challenge that are displayed throughout the house, so that's something you all can try to find, where those ornaments are.

And, as always, we have all of the wonderful things that make the holiday season at the White House so unique and special -- guess how many trees we have here scattered all throughout the White House?

CHILD: Five?

MRS. OBAMA: Twenty-six. I know. (Laughter.) It's a lot of trees. We just have one, two, three -- five here in this room. (Laughter.) So there are 26 trees all throughout the rooms and the hallways. We have a 420-pound gingerbread house -- you guys are going to see that if you haven't, we're going to go over there soon -- in the State Dining Room. And of course, just sniffing -- there's the amazing smell of pine that just wafts through the house. That's the best part, really. That really tells you it's Christmas. And we can smell it all the way upstairs, it's really beautiful.

So I want to thank all 106 volunteers, like Susan, who traveled from all across the country to help decorate. We couldn't do this without them. They come in Thanksgiving weekend, they give up time with their families. They come when the tree comes on Friday and they spend the next day in the warehouse picking out ornaments. They come here and they're in every room, and they're proud of what they do. They're a little possessive at times, I understand. (Laughter.) And they also help decorate the Christmas trees that are in our residence as well.

So we are so grateful. We're grateful for their enthusiasm, for their creativity. They have -- as you will see, they have done an outstanding job. The house is just breathtaking. And we're so proud and grateful.

And because of their hard work, we're now ready to open the White House for the holiday season to the 65,000 people who will come through this house over the next month -- 65,000 people are going to walk in these rooms where you are, and they're going to get to see all these ornaments. And these visits are going to become beautiful, lifelong memories for everyone who gets to come by.

So again, we're grateful to the volunteers. We are especially grateful to all of our servicemembers, our veterans, their families. We're truly grateful. We hope you take time to enjoy your time here at the White House, and see and touch and smell everything you can, and come back for more if you haven't seen enough.

But now, we've got a little surprise for you guys. Are you guys ready to get up and move? (Laughter.) You're going to come with me, we're going to do some decorating. (Laughter.) We've got stuff -- I think we may have some cookies or something.

CHILD: Yay! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah! Yes, ma'am, do you have a question?

CHILD: I need to -- have to make two because my brother is sick. So I'm making some (inaudible) extras.

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah. She may have to make two of whatever she's making because her brother is sick. Yeah, we're going to -- you can make eight. (Laughter.) Can make as many as you want!

So you guys are going to follow me. Are you guys ready? And I'm going to take your kids. The parents -- where are the parents of these beautiful children? Are you okay with them coming with me for a moment? (Laughter.) You know, really, don't get so nervous, because there's really nothing they can tear up. (Laughter.) There really isn't, so just don't worry. As long as you don't care if those pretty dresses get a little icing on them.

They're going to come with me, and maybe you'll get to see Bo and Sunny. Yeah! Anybody afraid of dogs, so I know ahead of time? Okay, well, you just stay away from them, okay? (Laughter.) Anybody else who doesn't like dogs? They're friendly dogs, but I understand dog phobia, okay? You just -- I'll make sure -- I'll look for you.

All right, you guys ready to come with me?


MRS. OBAMA: All right, let's go, let's do it!

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the Holiday Press Preview Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321927

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