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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 4, 2008
President and Mrs. Bush Attend 2008 Lighting of the National Christmas Tree Ceremony
5:55 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, thank you for the introduction and thank you for the warm welcome. Laura and I are pleased to welcome all of you here for one of Washington's great traditions, the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
Santa, thank you for finally showing up. (Laughter.) I know you've come a long way. After all, you do live in the North Pole. You may have heard that Laura and I are going to have plenty of time next year. (Laughter.) So we look forward to returning the favor. The problem is we're going to be short on an airplane. (Laughter.) Have you got an extra sleigh? (Laughter.)
I welcome the members of my Cabinet; the administration and their families; members of Congress and their families; Vin Cipolla; Mary Bomar, the Director of the National Park Service -- (applause) -- Peggy O'Dell, Regional Director, National Capital Region of the National Park Service. (Applause.) And all the National Park Service employees, we thank you for your dedication and work. (Applause.)
Laura and I are thrilled to be here with our dear friend, Reverend Luis León. All the entertainers -- thank you for being here. You were fabulous tonight. We appreciate your performance. (Applause.) We especially welcome the folks from Enterprise, Alabama. (Applause.) And we thank the School Choir for showing the determination and grit of some really fine people.
We want to thank all the volunteers who designed and created the ornaments for our state trees.
Today we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the National Christmas Tree lighting. In times of calm, and in times of challenge, Americans have gathered for this ceremony. The simple story we remember during the season speaks to every generation. It is the story of a humble birth in a quiet town, and the story of one life that changed millions more. For two millennia, the story of Christmas has brought joy to families, comfort to communities, and hope to hearts around the world.
During Christmas we celebrate the blessings of the season, and the blessings that surround us every day. And the greatest of these blessings is freedom -- the Almighty's gift to every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth. (Applause.)
And today, we give thanks to the brave men and women who protect the American people by defending freedom around the world. (Applause.) Over the past eight years, my greatest honor as President has been serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military ever known. (Applause.)
Our men and women in uniform have stepped forward to defend our nation during a time of war. They serve with courage and with honor, and they've made incredible sacrifices. Many of them will spend this Christmas stationed in distant lands, far from the families they love. Yet they're never far from our thoughts, and they are always in our prayers. America honors their service, and we are grateful to the sacrifice of the families who stand by their side. (Applause.)
Some of those families are with us tonight, and Laura and I are pleased to be joined by Kayleigh Kepler and Lindsey Van Horn. Lindsey's dad is in Baghdad. Kayleigh's dad will deploy to Iraq next year. Kayleigh and Lindsey, America is safer because of your dads, and moms and dads across America who have stepped forward to defend our country.
And now I'm going to ask Kayleigh and Lindsey to get up here with Laura -- to please come up with Laura -- (laughter) -- and help us light this beautiful tree.
Everybody join -- five, four, three, two, one! (Applause.)
END 6:00 p.m. EST