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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 30, 2006
Mrs. Bush's Remarks in Press Preview of the White House 2006 Christmas Decorations "Deck the Halls and Welcome All"
State Dining Room
Holidays at the White House 2006
10:02 A.M. EST
MRS. BUSH: Hi, how are you all? Welcome to the White House for Christmas season 2006. We're going to start with the famous work of art that we have every year. Roland, our former pastry chef, came back -- by popular demand -- to build a beautiful gingerbread house that all of you can see right here. If you look closely, you'll see that Barney and Miss Beazley are driving Santa's sleigh at the very top. Kitty is here, right underneath the birdhouse. The little trees are covered with doves. Once again, Roland, it's just absolutely beautiful -- snowflakes all over the house.
Everything is edible -- not that I suggest anybody break off any pieces of it -- but it is real gingerbread, chocolate that sort of works as the glue, marzipan make up the trees that are here. And what are the wonderful little birds?
MR. MESNIER: -- that hold together, and 800 snowflakes.
MRS. BUSH: Eight hundred snowflakes cover it.
MR. MESNIER: That's quite a job. And we had fun doing it for the First Family and the American people to enjoy during the holidays.
MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Roland. I appreciate it. It looks fabulous.
Then, as you can see from the rest of the decorations in this room, we took all of our cues from the Red Room. This is a beautiful old house to decorate for Christmas, and since red is one of the predominant colors, it really is perfect for Christmas decorations. So our theme this year, which is "Deck the Halls and Welcome All," is really based on the colors in the Red Room and the Christmas colors of red and green.
Both this table and the dining room table that you'll see in the East Room that's set up there are covered with little forests of snow-covered trees. And I think they're especially pretty, the red tablecloths that will be all over the house.
So I think we're ready to move to another room, if you all are ready.
* * * * *
MRS. BUSH: Okay, here we are in front of the famous Christmas tree. This is the big Christmas tree in the White House, the one that's here in the Blue Room. It was given to the White House by Christmas tree growers, the Botek family from Pennsylvania. And this year we've covered it all with glass and crystal and snow and red ribbons, and I think it's absolutely beautiful this way.
There have been a lot of interesting happenings in this room and all the rooms of the White House over the many Christmases that Presidents and their families have lived here. One of the interesting Christmas occasions happened with Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, they were here in this room right after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when they went out and spoke to a crowd of about 15,000 off of the balcony that you can enter from the Blue Room here. They had moved the Christmas tree lighting to the White House lawn because they were afraid for it to be farther out because they were afraid of another attack in the United States. So the crowd stood in the dark while President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill gave a very stirring address to the nation, and they lit the American Christmas tree out on the lawn of the White House.
Okay, are you ready for the next room?
Q What kind of tree is it?
MRS. BUSH: It's a Douglas fir.
* * * * *
MRS. BUSH: Okay. I'm so happy to welcome everybody here, the big, huge press corps, to welcome you here for the Christmas season of 2006. You can see from the tablecloths in here and the decorations on the tree that we took our cue this year from the Red Room. This is such a beautiful old house and it's such a perfect house to decorate for the holidays, because of the predominant use of red always in the decoration of the White House, and it worked so perfectly for the holiday season.
We're using big arrangements, as you can see, of red carnations that Nancy Clarke, our florist, has put together for us, as well as the big old crystal candelabras that belong to the White House collection, that are both here in the center of these mantels and then in the mantels behind you. The tables are red-on-red polka dots, and the tablecloths with the little forest of trees that run down the center of the tables, the tables both in here for the receptions in the East Room, as well as in the State Dining Room.
And then, of course, we'll have once again the very, very fabulous desserts from the dessert table. So I would like to introduce our holiday pastry chefs. Roland, who was our former pastry chef, who has come back for a command performance and built the gingerbread house for us. And Bill Yosses, who is here as a pastry chef. You'll see when you all get to taste all the fruits of their labors, you'll get to see how fabulous the desserts are, the wrapped packages of desserts that not only are delicious, but are also beautiful.
And, of course, our chief chef, the head chef for us, Cris Comerford, who has done such a beautiful job for event after event. And now, today, you all will start the very first of many parties -- I think maybe 25 parties in all that the President and I will host over the whole season -- and you will get to be the first ones to see how wonderful the buffet is. Cris has come up with some regional favorites, like one of our favorites, chicken fried steak and creamed gravy, and tamales from the southwest. But then, of course, we'll have traditional ham and turkey, shrimp cocktail. And then her signature classic, the sweet potato souffl that everyone looks forward to having over the holiday season, that Cris makes. So she can talk to you in a minute and tell you more about it.
But this gives me a chance to thank Gary Walters. This is Gary's last Christmas with us, which is sad for all of us -- he's been the chief usher for how many years?
MR. WALTERS: Twenty --
MRS. BUSH: Twenty-something years as chief usher, and been here at the White House as an usher for over 30 years, I believe. He's going to retire, and I want to thank him very, very much for his service. It's a sad time for him, I know -- sad, nostalgic, as he's overseen all of the decorations, like he's done every year for all these last years. So this gives me a chance to thank him very, very much for his service.
Thank you for your service to all the Presidents that you've worked for and to our country, Gary.
Mr. Walters: Thank you, ma'am.
MRS. BUSH: Really appreciate it very much.
And Lea Berman, our social secretary, of course. This is her busiest season -- although, every season is busy. But we have a lot of guests that will come, both guests that will come to parties here at the White House, and then we have tours -- even more people who tour through, including White House staff, all the big, extended White House staff who can come through on tours with I think five family members each. So the house will be busy every single day with lots and lots of people.
Nancy, of course, I've already introduced. She is our chief florist. She's also been here for years. She is the one who starts brainstorming about possibilities for decorations very early. We usually start in March, to first start talking about what we want to do for the next Christmas. And once again she's done a really fabulous job. Thank you very much, Nancy. She's also a delight to work with, and so much fun to get to decorate this beautiful house for the holidays.
Cris is going to answer questions for you in a minute. And now I want to introduce you to our artists. Pam Carroll is an illustrator, and she did the brochure that each one of you will have a copy of. She's the illustrator of several important books for children, American books for children. And she did the illustrations of the decorations that will be in the brochure that each one of you will get. And you did a beautiful job, Pam. Thank you very, very much for that.
Ed Dyer was the artist of our invitation. This is the work that's on the Christmas invitation that people will receive that are invited to parties. I ran into Ed when I was in New Orleans, at Galatoire's, so I asked him -- he's an artist, I asked him to do the invitation and he did a really lovely job.
And then the beautiful Christmas card artist is Jim Blake. Thank you so much, Jim, I appreciate it very much. This year it's a beautiful oil painting of the Oval Office, with the lights on in the Oval Office for -- this card goes out, a lot of people have already mentioned that they've gotten their cards, so we're probably one of the first American families in the month to get our cards already out. (Laughter.) So I hope if you all are on our list that you've already gotten yours. And thank you so much, it's really beautiful, I appreciate it very much.
Okay. I'm going to leave it up to Cris now, if you want to hear some of the things you're going to have. Any questions for Cris?
MS. COMERFORD: Don't be shy. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: They're shy? We can't believe it. (Laughter.)
Q What was the biggest item that you had to incorporate the vast majority of the chefs, to include Roland this year -- to bring Roland back, actually, this year?
MS. COMERFORD: Actually, it's great for this particular season, it's a wonderful collaboration of minds and talents of different chefs. So as you will see later on when you try our food, you will see different traditional and not so traditional original American food that we'll be featuring for the season, like hams and the usual turkey, but at the same token, we also have, like the First Lady said, some regional items, like the tamales and also the chicken fried steak, which is really, really good -- it's actually our favorite.
MRS. BUSH: With the creamed gravy. (Laughter.)
Q Is diet a consideration at all, and calories?
MRS. BUSH: Not at all. (Laughter.) Not for the holiday season.
Q Mrs. Bush, there are some ornaments here from North Carolina.
MRS. BUSH: That's right, you're right.
Q How did you get those?
MRS. BUSH: The ornaments that are from North Carolina are in the west reception hall and the visitors' reception room. So I hope that you'll have a chance to stop by and see those ornaments. This is a very wonderful American story -- a town in North Carolina that had a lot of textile mills, and when that industry sort of came to an end in that town in North Carolina, they all worked together, the people in the town, to figure out a new industry for themselves, and they came up with making these wonderful ornaments. So when you're in the west reception hall or in the visitors reception room on the east side, I hope you'll be able to get there to get some B roll of those trees and see these beautiful, handmade ornaments.
Q Mrs. Bush, what would you say to the families of the troops this holiday season? There's been so much controversy going around about the Iraq war. And also, personally, what's going on your tree --
MRS. BUSH: Well, our tree is already decorated. It's covered with our own personal ornaments that we moved up here. It looks very beautiful, a lot of Christmas ornaments that we've had since Barbara and Jenna were born 25 years ago. Of course, a few have broken since, in the 25 years. But it's a personal tree with our own personal decorations everywhere upstairs, including a big collection of nativity scenes that I've collected over the years and from many parts of the world. These trips that we've had the opportunity to make since George has been President have also added to my nativity collection, because I've bought things around the world as we've traveled.
To the families of our troops and to our troops, I send my deepest respect. It's difficult, especially over the holidays, but it's always difficult when your loved one is deployed, when you're worried about your loved one. And I know that especially the families bear the big burden of worry. And I want them to know that the American people are standing with them, especially at the holiday season, but all the time, and sending them our love and our respect. And also our willingness to do whatever we can to support these families in our communities around the United States. And I hear from -- great ways that people are supporting our troops. I hear all the time from DFW, for instance, in Dallas, the airport, as our troops fly through either on their way home from deployment or on their way to deployment, that groups of people from that area go to the airport to welcome them especially, and to send them back home to their loved ones or on their deployment with the very, very best wishes and love of the American people.
Thanks everybody. Thank you all.
END 10:19 A.M. EST
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