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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 2, 2004
5:56 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Tonight we begin a joyous season, and the city of Washington is never more beautiful than during the holidays. At Christmas time we celebrate good tidings first announced two thousand years ago, and still a source of great joy in our world. Laura and I are always happy to join in the Pageant of Peace, and we thank you all for coming this evening.
I thank our special guests. I want to thank Santa for such good weather. (Laughter.) I appreciate Peter, the chairman of the Pageant of Peace, and his wife, Nancy. I want to thank John Betchkal, the president of the Christmas Pageant of Peace. I want to thank the members of the board of the Christmas Pageant of Peace for your hard work in putting on this joyous festival. I want to thank Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton. I want to thank other members of my Cabinet who are here tonight. I appreciate he members of Congress who are here.
I want to thank Fran Mainella, who is the Director of the Parks Service, and all the National Parks Service employees. (Applause.) I thank Dr. Schuller and all the entertainers. Thanks so very much for being here tonight.
The season of Advent is always the season of hope. We think of the patient hope of men and women across the centuries who listened to the words of the prophets and lived in joyful expectation. We think of the hope of Mary, who welcomed God's plan with great faith. We think of the hope of the Wise Men who set out on a long journey guided only by a slender promise traced in the stars. We are reminded of the hope that the grandest purposes of the Almighty can be found in the humblest places. And we embrace the hope that all the love and gifts that come to us in this life are the signs and symbols of even a greater love and gift that came on a holy night. The old carol speaks of a "thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn." And every year at this time we feel the thrill of hope as we wait on Christmas Day.
This Christmas, as loved ones come together, some in our military are separated from family by the call of duty a long way from home. We have servicemen and women celebrating the holidays at bases from Europe to East Asia, and on many fronts in the war on terror. Especially for those deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, the work is dangerous and the mission is urgent. American servicemen and women are bringing freedom to many and peace to future generations. Their sacrifices defend us all, and all Americans are grateful to them and to our military families. (Applause.)
Across our country, citizens are supporting our people in uniform with their prayers and many acts of kindness. Often the effort is led by children. In Chantilly, Virginia, Brownie Troop 5179 -- who are here tonight, by the way -- collected donations of candy and sun screen, bug spray, and hand-made cards to send to our soldiers overseas. They gathered more than 200 pounds of gifts and made sure the packages arrived on time for the holidays. I'm sure those thoughtful gifts were gladly received.
And I thank the Brownies for reminding the good people of our military how much they mean to America. And to show our appreciation to the Brownies of Chantilly, Virginia, and all those who volunteer in our blessed land, we have two representatives of the Troop to help Laura and me light our national Christmas tree.
And so, if Nichole and Clara will come forward, we will turn on the lights. (Applause.) Are you ready? Now will you join me in the countdown? Five, four, three, two, one. (Applause.)
END 6:03 P.M. EST
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