First Lady Michelle Obama Launches New Lodging For Families Of Ailing Vets

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AP~First Lady Michelle Obama has helped open three new residences for families of ailing U.S. soldiers and veterans in Maryland.

Mrs. Obama cut the red ribbon Thursday for the Fisher Houses at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. She was flanked by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Ken Fisher of the Fisher House Foundation.

Obama says the homes provide a comfortable place for families who have made a sacrifice for their country.

The residences will provide free lodging for the families of as many as 60 sick and injured service members.

The Rockville-based foundation has built dozens of Fisher Houses at military facilities since 1991.

The new residences are part of the planned move of Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Washington to Bethesda next year.

Remarks by the First Lady at Fisher House Tour and Ribbon Cutting

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Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah at the White House

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

Last night, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the First Lady welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah at the White House. “So on this second night of Hanukkah,” said President Obama, “Let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.”

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Before lighting the menorah, the President delivered remarks:

Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.

It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people.  And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.

That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair.  And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.

And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.

Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.

That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

He continued, explaining how the menorah and the family who helped light it both stand as symbols of that faith:

This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water.   Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold.  And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.

And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well.  After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief.  But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.

So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy.  Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.”

Ed. Note: In August 2010, Susan Retik was awarded the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal for advancing women’s rights and the power of America’s ideals. The Medal is among the highest honors a civilian can recieve. Watch a video of her story here.

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First Lady Michelle Obama at the Holiday Preview: “It’s the People’s House

Posted by: Audiegrl

Written by Jordan Harp

First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the holiday season by welcoming military families who organize a local branch of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive to the White House. “The idea behind this year’s theme,” Mrs. Obama said, “is Simple Gifts, because in the end, the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing — the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need.”

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In her remarks, the First Lady discussed the importance of opening the doors of the White House during the holiday season and thanked the nearly 100 volunteers from across the country that made it all possible:

In many ways, this is really what the White House is all about.  And I say this all the time. It’s the “People’s House.”  It’s a place that is steeped in history, but it’s also a place where everyone should feel welcome.  And that’s why my husband and I have made it our mission to open up the house to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday seasons.

So it goes without saying that when you look around, that our family never could have done all of this wonderful decorating on our own.  In fact, we only did a little bit of it. That’s why over the last few days nearly 100 volunteers from all over the country have been working so hard.  They’ve been making all the ornaments that — many of them that you’ve seen.  They’ve been hanging the lights and transforming these rooms into breathtaking works of art.  And I have to say the house looks more beautiful than it did last year.  It is really something special.

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with a boy during a craft demonstration in the State Dining Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2010. The First Lady visited three creative stations where children of military personnel worked on holiday projects. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Thanking the military families in attendance for their sacrifice and service, the First Lady introduced the President and CEO of “Toys for Tots,” Lieutenant General Pete Osman. Lieutenant General Osman shared a touching story about a family impacted by Toys for Tots:

A couple of years back, there was a wonderful family in D.C. — Mom, Dad, five kids.  Happy family.  And unfortunately, tragedy struck.  The father took ill and quickly passed away.  The mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom, all of a sudden found herself having to find a job while still raising her five children.  She realized she was going to have to make some tough choices, and she did.  I mean, she had a house payment to make, utilities, food to buy, clothing and all that, and she said, “We’re going to have to cut Christmas this year.”

First Lady Michelle Obama shows off a card during a craft demonstration in the State Dining Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2010. The First Lady visited three creative stations where children of military personnel worked on holiday projects. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Now, she had to make this decision early on, probably in the October time frame.  And she was comfortable with it.  But as Christmas drew nearer and nearer, she became very concerned.  In fact, on Christmas Eve, she was distraught.  She was beside herself with the thought on Christmas morning her children were going to come downstairs and there weren’t going to be any gifts under that little Charlie Brown Christmas tree that they had.

Fortunately, the knock at the door came, and standing there were two Marines, a couple of volunteers, and a bunch of boxes full of toys.  So needless to say, for the Johnsons the next morning, they had a wonderful Christmas.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Interesting thing was one of the toys was a big old red fire truck.  And one of her sons really took a liking to that fire truck.  That became his favorite toy that day and for the rest of the next year and actually to years after that.  And as you would have it, that fire truck had an impact. Today, that man is one of D.C.’s finest.  He’s a firefighter with the D.C. Fire Department.

So if you don’t think that toy makes a difference, just remember this story.  And the great thing is, is there are thousands of stories just like that out there.

To find out ways to get involved, visit the Toys for Tots website.

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Remarks by the First Lady at Holiday Press Preview

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West Wing Week ~ The Turkey Behind the Turkey ~ November 19 – November 26, 2010

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Bo, the Obama family dog, is greeted by several of the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) achievers in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Nov. 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he attends the NATO Summit in Portugal, visits Kokomo, Indiana, participates in the traditional turkey pardoning and volunteers alongside the First Family at Martha’s Table, a local organization that provides nutrition and other family services to those in need, and more…

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First Lady Michele Obama Receives the White House Christmas Tree

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First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia are joined by Chris Botek and his wife Brandi as the First Family receives the White House Christmas Tree for 2010, on November 26, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. The 18 1/2 foot Douglas fir tree comes from Chris Botek’s tree farm in Lehighton, PA.

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First Family Helps Families At Food Pantry

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama packs and gives bags of food to area residents, with the help of his daughters Sasha and Malia, and first lady Michelle Obama, and first grandmother Marion Robinson, ahead of the Thanksgiving Day holiday at Martha’s Table on November 24, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Obama family delivered turkeys and bags of food to needy families at Martha’s Table, a 30-year-old non-profit that helps poor children, youth and families with food and clothing.

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President Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

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President Barack Obama talks with daughters Sasha and Malia in the Oval Office before pardoning a turkey named Apple in the Rose Garden, Nov. 24, 2010. President Obama also pardoned Cider, Apple’s alternate. After the event, Apple and Cider will be taken to a new residence at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

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