For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 2, 2004
Remarks by Mrs. Bush at the 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
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
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
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
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
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
* * * * *
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q Merry Christmas.
MRS. BUSH: Merry Christmas.
END 11:15 A.M. EST