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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 2, 2004
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at White House Holiday Press Preview
The State Floor
10:52 A.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Happy Holidays to you all. Good to see you all. I'm so excited to welcome everybody to the Christmas decorations to the White House right now, and I think the White House looks really terrific. And I have some very important people to introduce you all to.
First, Nancy Clarke, who always does the decorations. She's our florist. As you know, she's the one who works, starting in March, if she can get me to make a decision that early -- or July if I can't make a decision that early on what the theme is going to be. And she starts building all the great things that you see around here, and making the plans for each one of these rooms. And how long have you been at the White House?
MS. CLARKE: I started full-time in 1981.
MRS. BUSH: 1981 -- 23 years. I know because the girls were born in 1981. And it's so terrific to have people who when whatever we say -- if I say, don't you think it would be great to do American Christmas music this year, Nancy always says, that will be terrific. (Laughter.) And she immediately starts to work and comes up with really, really great ideas. And so we have a good time all year planning what we'll be doing for the holiday season.
And this year, as all of you know, it's "A Season of Merriment and Melody." And it's all those American Christmas songs that we grew up on and that our children are singing now -- of course, "Rudolph," and "Frosty," and "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, "All I Want For Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth." I don't know if you all remember that song. (Laughter.) But anyway, I think Nancy has done such a fabulous job once again. Thank you very, very much, Nancy.
MS. CLARKE: Thank you.
MRS. BUSH: I really appreciate it.
And then, of course, another really important part of the season is the food. Could you all come on in? The Christmas foods that we always have. And this is our chef, Walter Schreib. And he does all the buffets. I think you all are going to get a chance to taste it in a little bit. And he plans all the foods that we have. And then this is our new pastry chef that I'm introducing you to, Thaddeus DuBois. And so this is his first gingerbread house for the White House. It certainly isn't his first gingerbread house, as you can tell. He has a lot of experience from gingerbread houses before. But you can see how great the gingerbread house is. If you look here you can find Barney and kitty -- our kitty, Willie, all over here. They're always -- they're doing something all over the house which is sort of similar to what they are. They're singing with the carolers right here, which I think is really cute. And they're up here on a little sleigh. I think they're in another couple of spots. Where are they, Thaddeus?
MR. DUBOIS: We have five, actually. There's -- right here on the snowman.
MRS. BUSH: Oh, yes, here's Barney building the snowman, or else eating the carrot. (Laughter.) One of the two. Here they are in Santa's pack, and that looks really cute. And do you want to talk about your gingerbread house?
MR. DUBOIS: Yes, the house -- we took eight Christmas songs, and we did this -- worked the theme around the eight songs. And they're listed on little brown signs here: "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," for instance, and "Frosty the Snowman," "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," "Marshmallow World," which is in the back there, which is a world covered with marshmallows. (Laughter.) On the corner there is "Toyland," with a child sleeping in the bed with a bunch of toys. And then on top of the house, we topped it off with The President's Own, the Marine Band -- six, or five players on top there just to continue the music theme.
MRS. BUSH: And as you all know, because you've come to a party, the Marine Band plays for a lot of our Christmas and holiday parties. And they're a very important part of our whole Christmas season, and, of course, all the social life at the White House.
You know Thaddeus replaced Roland, who was our pastry chef for about 28 years before that. And just in case any of you are looking for a great Christmas gift, Roland has done a dessert cookbook. So that's something that you might want to give friends for Christmas.
And also our Christmas brochure artist Elise Primavera is a wonderful artist. Come over here and join me here, Elise. And she is a children's book illustrator. So if you're looking for a beautiful book for your children on your Christmas card list, you can see the example of her work in the brochures that you all have that give a tour of the White House. And she has a number of really magnificent children's books on the market. So don't forget Elise Primavera, either, when you're looking for a holiday book for your favorite kids.
And then Cindi Holt is the artist who did the Christmas card. This year's Christmas card is the Red Room, which is the perfect room for a Christmas card. I know it has been a subject of a lot of Christmas cards over the years because it's so perfect. And she put in it, in the foreground, the cranberry topiary that has been in the Red Room, I think for 25 years. They make it ever year for the Red Room, and it looks so pretty. There is somebody -- one of the decorators that comes to work on the Christmas decorations every year painstakingly puts each one of these cranberries on the topiary. Isn't that right, Gary? For how long, is it 25 years?
MR. WALTERS: Since the Ford administration in 1975.
MRS. BUSH: So even longer.
And Cindi is from Fort Worth. She is an artist who has painted several paintings of rooms at the White House. And she also painted some paintings of the Texas Governor's Mansion when we lived there. And I think this one is so exuberant and happy, and a really wonderful holiday card.
Thank you, Cindi.
MS. HOLT: Thank you.
MRS. BUSH: Thanks, a lot.
Okay, are we ready to move to the next room? Did everybody -- everyone has Elise's brochure so you can see how great her work is. And then here is her original art.
Q I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the -- the look of the house this year is a little more elegant, a little less whimsical than last year. What made you kind of lean that way?
MRS. BUSH: Well, every year we want it to be different. And we come up with different ideas, and really the choice of the theme this year, the songs are whimsical and funny. And I think that's sort of what each one of the vignettes look like that are on the mantles and on the tables in all the rooms. But this is a room, as you know, that we use every night for entertaining. It's either the buffet table at receptions, or this is where the tables will be set up for the dinners, the Christmas dinners that we have. And so I think it is really great for it to be so elegant in the dining room. And of course, we use a lot of the White House chinas for these events. And the gold millennium china that President Clinton and Senator Clinton added in the last administration looks great with these gold decorations, too.
And then in the Cross Hall are the snow-covered trees, which always look so beautiful, the reflection of the lights on the marble floors. And that's because on the pier table in the Cross Hall is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," so that's really the whole theme of the Cross Hall.
MR. JOHNDROE: Now, we're going to the Blue Room.
MRS. BUSH: Okay, now we go to the Blue Room and look at the tree there.
* * * * *
MRS. BUSH: The centerpiece always of the Christmas decorations is the big Christmas tree in the Blue Room. And as all of you know, we have to remove the chandelier to get the tree in, it's so big. I think a couple of days ago you might have met the Christmas tree growers from Washington state, the Tillman family. And they delivered the tree, and then they came in and decorated the tree, worked with all the decorators and stayed until yesterday getting the tree decorated.
And so to carry out our theme of merriment and music, melody, we covered the tree with ornaments that are musical instruments -- the bells and the maracas and the tambourines and the -- even little piano. I don't know if you see the little piano, the drums, the guitar. And they're all painted by decorative artists from the Decorative Artists Society of America. And they came in yesterday from every state, all around the country, to see their ornaments on the tree. And I think it makes a really beautiful, vibrant, deep color tree. I think it's so pretty. Did you all see any of these up close? (Laughter.)
Any other questions? Are we going to go to the next room?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, ma'am.
MRS. BUSH: All right, we'll see you in the next room.
* * * * *
MRS. BUSH: Hey, everybody. So this room is always so beautiful however it's decorated, but especially this year with the snow-covered trees and the red tablecloth, the white tulips. I think it really makes a beautiful room. And this is the room that, of course, all of our guests who will be coming to parties all over the holiday season will be able to fill their plates. And as you can see back here behind us, we have Frosty the Snowman, made by Thaddeus DuBois, our pastry chef. So that's the dessert table that is set up back there.
And then on each of the mantles in this room is one of the songs that American children know and remember. And we have "Rudolph" over here, and "Marshmallow World" on that one, "Frosty the Snowman" back here, and "Toyland" on the other mantle. So I think this room always looks really magnificent, but especially during this holiday season it's so pretty with the snow and the garlands and the gold ornaments and the beautiful gold drapes that are in here.
And you may not know it but our Washington -- famous Washington and Martha Washington paintings that are in here are reframed with frames that are more appropriate to the period of the paintings. So they look great.
Q What is your favorite tradition?
MRS. BUSH: My favorite tradition? I think I'll have to admit it's the Christmas foods. (Laughter.) I like that part of it. And of course, I like opening presents and giving gifts, and being with my family. I think for everybody, the nicest part of the holidays are the times we get to spend with the people we love.
Q Mrs. Bush, because the public cannot come through, are there any groups, special groups of people that you're going to have through here this year?
MRS. BUSH: Yes, there's tours set up for the whole holiday season. They'll actually -- I think they start tomorrow and run all the way through, even after Christmas. And there are military families that are coming on tour, as well as White House staff. People that work all over the administration come through on different days.
Q How does it feel to know that you'll have a few more Christmases here
MRS. BUSH: I'm glad to have a few Christmases here. (Laughter.) I'm very happy. Thanks, thanks for asking. I knew we were coming up to this holiday before the election. One of the things I really thought about was, was this going to be our last Christmas here, or was it going to be one of a few more Christmases here? And certainly, the whole idea -- everything that goes along with decorating this beautiful house for the holidays is one of the most fun parts of my job, one of the things that I really like to do, and that is to be involved in how we're going to decorate and what we're going to show the American people with our decorations. And so that was something I actually thought about a lot before the election.
Q So you actually help with the decorations?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I come up with the theme and talk about with Nancy Clarke, who is the florist here, talk about what we're going to do here. And then she works on all of the vignettes, along with other people who work in the florist shop here at the White House, and the carpenters and the electricians. And everyone is really involved in building these different scenes.
Q Mrs. Bush, it must be a spectacular transformation -- 150,000 lights. But what does it look like before it's done?
MRS. BUSH: Well, it looked like chaos right before, when the decorators were all here. And there are a number of decorators that come in from around the country. The florists are people who are particularly interested in helping decorate the White House. I think they always have a wonderful time. There's a group of them that have come in for years and they love to see each other every holiday season when they come to decorate. But they also love to be here. And it's very, very busy. It really does remind me of what I think Santa's workshop would look like with strings of lights on the floor, and boxes of ornaments everywhere, and this snow. I think they usually have a snow fight. And that's the last thing they add to the trees. And I think that's the final ritual of the decorators.
Q Mrs. Bush, would that mean that you --
Q -- the Inauguration and all the Inaugural parties and all your friends from Texas coming?
MRS. BUSH: Sure, sure. I've been meeting with the people who are planning the Inauguration. It's very preliminary right now, the plans. But we've been meeting and talking about that, and all our friends from around the country that will come in. We're looking forward to it.
Q Do you have a special message for all the American Armed Forces --
MRS. BUSH: Absolutely. I want all of our troops who are deployed to know that everybody in the United States, that I know I can speak for everybody, that we're thinking about them, we're praying for them. And I know that the burden on their families is a special burden, the families that will have an empty place at the table because their loved one is deployed, or because they lost their loved one. And I want to urge Americans to reach out to military families over the holiday season and always, but especially over the holiday season because it is hard to be away from the people you love best, especially on the holidays.
Q Mrs. Bush, can we take a peek inside of your personal Christmas decorations and ornaments, either at Crawford, or here at the White House; we see such elaborateness here. Tell us about what you do and the President will do?
MRS. BUSH: Well, upstairs, we have all of our own holiday decorations that are on our Christmas tree. And we have those little ornaments that Barbara and Jenna made when they were little. We have little photographs of them in their Mother's Day out program that they made for us as a Christmas gift when they were three. And those are on the tree upstairs, along with a lot of our own decorations, the Santa Clauses and the Nativity scenes that we've collected over the years. But we'll be with our family. George's parents will come. My mother is already here. A couple of George's brothers and their families, and his sister and her family will be with us at Camp David for Christmas.
Q Mrs. Bush, your first year here was such a traumatic time.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q For Christmas. What do you think the mood of the country is this year?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think in many ways, I think we are still very aware of what happened on September 11th and what has happened since. But I think the mood of the country is good. I think people look at what has happened in Afghanistan. It is unbelievable how Afghanistan has changed in such a really short period of time. And we watched the people of Afghanistan line up to vote. Women not only can be a part of society now in Afghanistan, but also lined up to vote. And that's what we want to see in Iraq, and the elections that will come in January. (Laughter.) We're joined here now. You all can't tell on this side, but Barney has joined us. But now he's going around so now he's coming to your side.
Q What do they think of all the decorations, Barney and Willie?
MRS. BUSH: Barney and Willie like them. I think they find them -- they're pretty good. Our cat used to bat the balls around on the Christmas tree, but she's gotten too old. She's not that interested any more.
Q Are you preparing Barney for --
MRS. BUSH: Pardon me?
Q Are you preparing Barney for Miss Beazley?
MRS. BUSH: I've been telling Barney that he's going to have a new sister named Beazley, but I don't think it has really registered yet.
MR. JOHNDROE: Last question.
Q Have you decided what you want most for Christmas this year, and what you think the President wants?
MRS. BUSH: Of course, I want peace, and I hope we have peace in the New Year. And I know that's what everyone is working on. I know that certainly everybody in the administration is working on that, and that's what I hope. I hope that the people of Afghanistan [sic] will be able to have good, free, fair elections in January and will make the first step toward a democracy.
Q While you were campaigning, you lost a lot of weight. (Laughter.) Are you going to be able to keep it with all the cookies and goodies?
MRS. BUSH: No, absolutely not. That's going to be very, very difficult. I don't know if you saw the list but I think the pastry chefs will make 24,000 cookies over the holidays. I won't eat all of those. (Laughter.)
Q Mrs. Bush --
MR. JOHNDROE: Last question.
Q -- did you finish the Christmas shopping you do? How much did you spend for this?
MRS. BUSH: I haven't done any Christmas shopping, and I'm going to have to think about what to get everyone. But I literally think -- maybe this is wrong, but I think by the time your children are 23, they get to the age where they don't really care if they have a whole lot of presents under the Christmas tree. So we won't have that many.
Q And your husband is the President, what do you get?
MRS. BUSH: Pardon me?
Q When your husband is the President, what do you get for him?
MRS. BUSH: That's a very hard -- that's a hard thing to figure out, what to get your husband when he's -- for Christmas. And I don't know any ideas yet. So if you all know anything, if you hear him say anything he might want, let me know about it.
MR. JOHNDROE: Thank you all.
MRS. BUSH: Happy Holidays, everybody. Thank you all very much. Thanks a lot.
Q Merry Christmas.
MRS. BUSH: Merry Christmas.