First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decorations

Mrs. Obama:
Well, hello, everyone. You guys look great —
I’m talking about the front row. [laughter] You guys look okay, too. Well, I am thrilled to welcome
you all here to the White House. Are you excited? Children:
Yes! Mrs. Obama:
Why are you excited? [laughter] Because it’s Christmas? Because you’re going
to get presents soon? Because there may
be treats somewhere? Yes, a few heads nodding. Well, we’re excited to have
you guys here with us today. I want to start by thanking
Diane and her amazing family for all that they’ve
done for this country and for that
eloquent introduction, and for being one of
the many fabulous volunteers who helped make this
White House so beautiful. In fact, Diane told me that
she got to work in this room, so we can personally thank
her for this beautiful — these beautiful decorations. Diane, we’re just
so grateful to you. And I want you all to know
a little bit about Diane — that in addition to the long
hours that she put in this week, on top of all of that,
she has spent countless hours volunteering regularly in her
community through her church, through the Red Cross. So volunteering
is no stranger — or Diane is no stranger
to volunteering. In fact, Diane isn’t alone in the contributions
she’s making — in fact, I believe
she embodies the spirit that we see in
military families — families like all of yours
all across this country, particularly during
the holiday season. You all are serving our nation. You all are volunteering
in your communities every day. And you’re also taking
care of business at home with your own families. And during this
holiday season, as we gather with
our loved ones, I’d ask every
American to remember what our military families and servicemembers
often experience during this time of year. Let us all remember
the sacrifices they make to proudly
serve all of us. For example, I’m thinking
today about the thousands of men and women in uniform
serving abroad who wake up in
the middle of the night in some remote
part of the world to read a special holiday story
to their children over Skype, or to be there on
the screen to experience that special moment
of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa. And then there are
the military families who spend hours painstakingly
filling holiday care packages for their loved
ones in uniform — sending them miniature
Christmas trees, making holiday cookies,
creating special homemade cards, doing their best
to help them experience the magic of the holidays
wherever they may be. And let us remember that many
military families are assigned to bases that are far from
their extended families, so they aren’t always
able to make it home to see grandma and grandpa. And as a consequence,
they have to find new ways to make the season bright. So they reach out, and they band
together with other families, and they create their
own special military family celebrations and traditions. And that’s what I’ve learned
that military families do. No matter what challenges
you all face — during the holidays or any
other time during the year — you all just dig
a little deeper. I say this time and time again. You just get creative and
you find ways to make it work, and you do it with such
strength and humor and grace. And on top of all of
that, somehow, like Diane, so many of you still manage to
find time over the holidays and throughout the year to give
back to your communities, once again digging deep
and going above and beyond. In fact, a recent survey shows
that 81 percent of military family members reported
volunteering in the past year, and that’s compared
to just 27 percent of the general public. So you guys really
make us all look bad. [laughter] But in short, your sacrifice and
your service to this country, your families’ stories
are such an important part of our great American story — stories that remind
us of the true meaning of the holiday season. And that actually brings
me to this year’s official White House holiday theme, which is “Gather Around:
Stories of the Season.” This holiday season,
we’ll be focusing on the stories behind classic
American holiday traditions — traditions celebrated
here at the White House and across the country. Our goal is for every room and
every tree to tell a story about who we are
and how we gather around one another
to mark the holidays. And that starts with
all of you — literally. In fact, when visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll
see is a tree decorated to pay tribute
to our Armed Forces. This tree, graced with
special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some
of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their
lives for our country. And any Gold Star family
who visits the White House can create their own ornament
to honor their loved one. In addition, everyone who visits
this White House this year gets a chance to fill
out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve
their community in honor of our
military families, your servicemembers,
your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve. We also have an entire room — it’s right next door,
it’s the Blue Room, one of my favorite rooms — dedicated to the idea of
gathering around our military. The tree in
that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards
drawn by military children from bases all across
the country as a way to celebrate their
parents’ service. And they’re beautiful,
they’re really sweet cards. So that’s how we’ll be honoring
our veterans and servicemembers and their families
this holiday season. And I would ask during
this time that every American find a way to honor
these great Americans, not just during the holidays,
but every day. And let us never forget the debt
that we owe these men and women and their amazing families. As for the rest of the house,
because there is more, we have a number of special
touches that build on our “Gather Around:
Stories of the Season” theme. In the East Garden Room,
you’ll see Christmas trees made entirely
of stacks of books. You may have seen those
coming in, they’re very cool. In the Cross Hall,
you’ll see trees reflecting the idea of gathering
around our heritage. They’ll be decorated with
ornaments representing great American sites like the Statue
of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and there’s some
silhouettes of people you might know today in history, so you guys will look and
see if you recognize anyone. And of course, we have our
usual first dog display. This year, Bo will be joined by his little sister
Sunny, our new pup, and the two of them will
be surrounded by books. And I was surprised
to see last night, this year they actually move. They’re mechanical. This is a new step. We’re stepping up in the world
of Bo-and-Sunny honoring. And these are just a few
of this year’s highlights. Although people who visit the
White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths, they’re going
to see thousands of ornaments and they’re going to
see a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds —
it’s pretty big — some of the best sights
they’ll see are kids enjoying all of this just
wonderful glory. Some of the best times in this
White House is just watching the faces of kids as
they walk through this house and count the trees
and look at the ornaments. And none of this
would be possible without the 83 volunteers
like Diane who came from all across the
country to help us decorate, once again, sacrificing,
leaving their families — because they start
decorating this house the day after Thanksgiving. It would not be possible
for us to do all of this without our volunteers. They are a pleasure to work
with, they are high-energy, they are positive. And just look around. I mean, every year they
just outdo themselves. So we are just so grateful for
their hard work and enthusiasm. Now, over the course
of this season, about 70,000 people will come to see our holiday
decorations — not bad. And I can’t imagine
a better group of people than all of you to be
our very first guests. Don’t you feel special? No one has seen these, not even
the President has seen these. [applause] He hasn’t seen them yet. You guys are the first. And truly, it is a treat to make
you all the first every season, because you all
do so much for us. And we are so proud and
so honored and so grateful. And we just want to give you
a chance to bring your families in to just get a little
special something just to remind you just how
special we all think you are. So I want you all to enjoy
every minute in this house. I’m going to stop right
now because we’ve got a little something we’re
going to do with the kids. All the kids,
you guys think you’re ready to go have some fun? Children: Yes! Mrs. Obama:
I’m going to take your kids. [laughter] And don’t worry, nothing can be
broken that can’t be repaired. I guarantee you my kids have
broken it if it can be broken. And we’re going to go
and do some decorating. Our chefs and our bakers
and our florists — they’re over there — they’ve got
special little things that you can make, little gifts. You guys ready for that? Child:
Yes, ma’am! Mrs. Obama:
Yes, ma’am! [laughter] I love that. So why don’t you guys get up. You guys can come
and go with me. Parents, you guys hang out. Get some cider, some cookies,
look at the ornaments. Breathe a little bit. They’re in good hands. I guarantee you
we will not lose them — but I can’t guarantee you
they will come back clean. [laughter] That’s the only thing
I can’t guarantee, so if you want pictures
of them clean, do it now. [laughter] And thank you. Have a happy holiday,
from my family to all of yours. Enjoy this holiday season. Be safe, be happy. And gather round together, and remember what
this is all about. You all, take care. Love you much. [applause]

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