Tag Archives: president

5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The Obama Family Lights The National Christmas Tree

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

President Barack Obama, with mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughters Sasha and Malia, and First Lady Michelle Obama, react as they push the button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ed. Note: Watch the full National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and show with musical performances by B.B. King, Sara Bareilles, Common, Maroon 5 and more at www.thenationaltree.org.

Last night, the First Family continued a proud holiday tradition – lighting the National Christmas Tree for the 88th time. View photos from the event and watch a video of the President’s remarks, the tree lighting ceremony, and a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the First Lady.

President Barack Obama addresses the crowd as he and the First Family attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama and First Family listen to the program at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

BB King performs Merry Christmas Baby at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“Snow or shine, in good times and in periods of hardship, folks like you have gathered with Presidents to light our national tree,” said President Obama, “Now, it hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. On one occasion, two sheep left the safety of the Nativity scene and wandered into rush-hour traffic. That caused some commotion.”

He continued, touching on the history of the ceremony and taking a moment to honor the men and women that are serving in uniform overseas this holiday season:

Often, the ceremony itself has reflected the pain and sacrifice of the times. There were years during the Second World War when no lights were hung, in order to save electricity. In the days following Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill joined President Roosevelt to wish our nation a Happy Christmas even in such perilous days.

But without fail, each year, we have gathered here. Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia. It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians, but it’s a message that’s universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.

It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.

And so during a time in which we try our hardest to live with a spirit of charity and goodwill, we remember our brothers and sisters who have lost a job or are struggling to make ends meet. We pray for the men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and in faraway places who can’t be home this holiday season. And we thank their families, who will mark this Christmas with an empty seat at the dinner table.

On behalf of Malia, Sasha, Michelle, Marian — who’s our grandmother-in-chief — (laughter) -– and Bo — don’t forget Bo — (applause) — I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season.

And now I’m going to invite the entire Obama crew up here to help me light this Christmas tree. (Applause.)

All right, everybody, we’re going to count from five — five, four, three, two, one.

(The tree is lit.) (Applause.)

Merry Christmas, everybody!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas at the White House, First Daughters, First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized

West Wing Week ~ It’s Alive! ~ December 3 – December 10, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama gets a hug as he shakes hands with the U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, Dec. 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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 visits Afghanistan to celebrate the holidays with our men and women in uniform, announces a free trade agreement with South Korea, attends a series of meetings at the White House and holds a press conference to answer questions about the tax cut compromise, signs the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, and more…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under Dr. Jill Biden, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, West Wing Week

West Wing Week ~ Sharp Elbows ~ November 26 – December 3, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses laugh as young visitor tastes her decorated cookie during a holiday craft demonstration with the children of military personnel in the State Dining Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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 holds a meeting with bipartisan members of the Congressional Leadership at the White House, greets the American 2010 Nobel Laureates in the Oval Office, meets with General Colin Powell, makes a joint statement about the importance of ratifying the START treaty with Russia, and more…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

President Barack Obama is reflected in a mirror as he meets with newly-elected governors at Blair House, Dec. 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, West Wing Week

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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Judaism, Pres. Barack Obama, Spirituality, Uncategorized

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

Posted by: Audiegrl

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…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, West Wing Week

President Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

Posted by: Audiegrl

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under Pres. Barack Obama, Thanksgiving

West Wing Week ~ I Really Like this Guy ~ November 12 – November 19, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for a Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools launch event at Riverside Elementary School in Miami, Fla., Nov. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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 G-20 in Seoul, Korea and the annual APEC meeting in Yokohama, Japan, awards the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, and the National Medals of Science and Technology, affirms the Administration’s commitment to promoting equality in the work place at a meeting of women leaders in the Roosevelt Room, and more…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, West Wing Week

First Lady Michelle Obama Attends “Let’s Move” Event In Harlem

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move” after-school event in Harlem with elementary school children at the New York Police Athletic League’s Harlem Center November 18, 2010 in New York City. The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign highlights the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for children in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

1 Comment

Filed under Change, Childhood Obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama

Medal of Honor for Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Jesse Lee

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta and his wife Jennifer Mueller in the Oval Office, Nov. 16, 2010. Later, the President presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Giunta for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, in October 2007. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon in the East Room of the White House, the President presented the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army — the first living service member from the Iraq or Afghanistan wars to receive it.  “Now, I’m going to go off-script here for a second and just say I really like this guy,” said the President to laughter and applause.  “I think anybody — we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet Sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what America is all about.”


As the President always does, he recounted the story of the events that earned  this honor, and as always it needs no editorial embellishment:

During the first of his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Giunta was forced early on to come to terms with the loss of comrades and friends.  His team leader at the time gave him a piece of advice:  “You just try — you just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.”  You’ve just got to try to do everything you can when it’s your time to do it.

Salvatore Giunta’s time came on October 25, 2007.  He was a Specialist then, just 22 years old.

Sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the Korengal Valley — the most dangerous valley in northeast Afghanistan.  The moon was full.  The light it cast was enough to travel by without using their night-vision goggles.  With heavy gear on their backs, and air support overhead, they made their way single file down a rocky ridge crest, along terrain so steep that sliding was sometimes easier than walking.

They hadn’t traveled a quarter mile before the silence was shattered.  It was an ambush, so close that the cracks of the guns and the whizz of the bullets were simultaneous.  Tracer fire hammered the ridge at hundreds of rounds per minute — “more,” Sal said later, “than the stars in the sky.”

The Apache gunships above saw it all, but couldn’t engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers.  The next platoon heard the shooting, but were too far away to join the fight in time.

And the two lead men were hit by enemy fire and knocked down instantly.  When the third was struck in the helmet and fell to the ground, Sal charged headlong into the wall of bullets to pull him to safety behind what little cover there was.  As he did, Sal was hit twice — one round slamming into his body armor, the other shattering a weapon slung across his back.

They were pinned down, and two wounded Americans still lay up ahead.  So Sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked.  They threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees.  Then they did it again.  And again.  Throwing grenades, charging ahead.  Finally, they reached one of their men.  He’d been shot twice in the leg, but he had kept returning fire until his gun jammed.

As another soldier tended to his wounds, Sal sprinted ahead, at every step meeting relentless enemy fire with his own.  He crested a hill alone, with no cover but the dust kicked up by the storm of bullets still biting into the ground.  There, he saw a chilling sight:  the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded American away — who happened to be one of Sal’s best friends.  Sal never broke stride.  He leapt forward.  He took aim.  He killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off.

Sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded.  Sal had saved him from the enemy — now he had to try to save his life.  Even as bullets impacted all around him, Sal grabbed his friend by the vest and dragged him to cover.  For nearly half an hour, Sal worked to stop the bleeding and help his friend breathe until the MEDEVAC arrived to lift the wounded from the ridge.  American gunships worked to clear the enemy from the hills.  And with the battle over, First Platoon picked up their gear and resumed their march through the valley.  They continued their mission.

It had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience.  By the time it was finished, every member of First Platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear.  Five were wounded.  And two gave their lives:  Sal’s friend, Sergeant Joshua C. Brennan, and the platoon medic, Specialist Hugo V. Mendoza.

Now, the parents of Joshua and Hugo are here today.  And I know that there are no words that, even three years later, can ease the ache in your hearts or repay the debt that America owes to you.  But on behalf of a grateful nation, let me express profound thanks to your sons’ service and their sacrifice.  And could the parents of Joshua and Hugo please stand briefly?  (Applause.)

Now, I already mentioned I like this guy, Sal.  And as I found out myself when I first spoke with him on the phone and when we met in the Oval Office today, he is a low-key guy, a humble guy, and he doesn’t seek the limelight.  And he’ll tell you that he didn’t do anything special; that he was just doing his job; that any of his brothers in the unit would do the same thing.  In fact, he just lived up to what his team leader instructed him to do years before:  “You do everything you can.”

Staff Sergeant Giunta, repeatedly and without hesitation, you charged forward through extreme enemy fire, embodying the warrior ethos that says, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”  Your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives.  Your courage prevented the capture of an American soldier and brought that soldier back to his family.  You may believe that you don’t deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it.  In fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated American soldier of World War II, Audie Murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason:  “They were killing my friends.”

That’s why Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers — because they would risk their lives for him.  That’s what fueled his bravery — not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his.  One of them, Sal has said — of these young men that he was with, he said, “They are just as much of me as I am.”  They are just as much of me as I am.

So I would ask Sal’s team, all of Battle Company who were with him that day, to please stand and be recognized as well.  (Applause.)  Gentlemen, thank you for your service.  We’re all in your debt.  And I’m proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under Change, First Lady Michelle Obama, Military, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized

West Wing Week ~ OCONUS ~ November 5 – November 11, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. On a special edition for the trip to Asia this week, walk step by step with the President as he meets with students, citizens, business leaders, and government officials in India, travels to Indonesia to extend a hand of friendship to the Indonesian people, attends the G-20 in Seoul, South Korea, and much more…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

Leave a comment

Filed under Change, Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden, West Wing Week