The White House Blog: The First Lady
- Posted byon December 5, 2013 at 2:32 PM EST
First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year's theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. Mrs. Obama talked about how the theme inspires her to think about “the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad who wake up in the middle of the night in some remote part of the world to read a special holiday story to their children over Skype, or to be there on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa.”
- Posted byon December 4, 2013 at 8:21 PM EST
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year's theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. “Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays,” she said. The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline.
The 2013 décor embraces beloved White House traditions. By using thoughtful hand-made volunteer crafts and recycled classic pieces, the Gather Around decorations and 24 trees throughout the residence all tell a story. Special art displays and Christmas trees made from repurposed books help this year’s theme come alive. In total, more than 450 repurposed books were used as part of the holiday décor (they will be donated to a local school’s book drive following the holiday season). Today, military children that attended the event had the opportunity to make crafts including – a fruit wreath and a Bo-quet paper poinsettia.
This year, two of the rooms honor our military families, a tradition started by Mrs. Obama, whose Joining Forces initiative seeks to honor and support those who sacrifice so much for our freedom.
“When visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces," she said. "This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one.”
The Blue Room also honors our military families. It holds the Official White House Christmas Tree, presented from the National Christmas Tree Association standing at 18 1⁄2 feet high and nearly 11 feet wide. According to the First Lady, the Blue Room tree is “dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service.”
First Lady Michelle Obama asks us all to “find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.” (You can share your message of thanks through the USO here)
- Posted byon November 29, 2013 at 6:08 PM EST
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the delivery of the Official White House Christmas Tree. The tree, a 18 1/2-foot high and nearly 11 foot wide Douglas Fir arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.
Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966. This year, the tree will be presented to the First Lady by the Botek family, growers of this year’s tree, and the Wyckoff family, winners of the National Christmas Tree Association’s National Christmas Tree contest. The Boteks are second-generation Christmas Tree farmers from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA, and the Wyckoff farm has been family owned for six generations -- since 1839. This year, four trees from the farm will be featured throughout the White House during the holiday season.
The official White House Christmas Tree will be displayed in the heart of the White House: the Blue Room. As in many years past, the tree will be decorated in honor of military families.
Learn more about past White House Holidays and stay tuned for more information about this years White House holiday décor.
Gathering in the Spirit of Unity: The President and First Lady Visit Those Fasting for Immigration ReformPosted byon November 29, 2013 at 2:31 PM EST
Today, the President and the First Lady visited the brave individuals who are fasting in the shadow of the Capitol, sacrificing their health in an effort to get Congress to act swiftly on commonsense immigration reform. The President and the First Lady gave their support for their fight for family unity this Thanksgiving weekend, as families across the country come together to spend time with loved ones.
Since November 12, fasters from “Fast For Families” have abstained from all food except water in an effort to bring attention to the urgent need for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to take a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and I have also visited Fast For families in recent weeks.
The fasters shared their stories and described empty stomachs but full hearts as they received an outpouring of support; to date, more than 3,000 people around the country have committed to fasting in solidarity.
The President and the First Lady thanked Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon, and all of the fasters for their sacrifice and dedication and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform. He said that the only thing standing in the way is politics. And it is the brave commitment to change from advocates like them that will pressure the House to finally act on immigration reform.
This Thanksgiving, as friends, family, and community gather in the spirit of unity, we lend our support to those fighting for making commonsense immigration reform a reality. We will stand with them every step of the way to make sure that we bring coherence to our immigration laws, and pass a common sense reform that is consistent with our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
- Posted byon November 27, 2013 at 4:44 PM EST
Today, continuing Obama family tradition, The First Family, their extended family, and many friends packed and handed out food bags at the Capital Area Food Bank in preparation for Thanksgiving. This year, the family was joined by volunteers from The Mission Continues, who exemplify the continuing service of our Nation’s veterans. The First Family will also be donating two turkeys and canned goods to the Capital Area Food Bank.
For many of our Nation’s veterans, their desire to lend assistance to others extends well beyond their service in the military. Through The Mission Continues, post-9/11 veterans are awarded community service fellowships that allow them to engage in projects throughout the United States and continue the strong sense of purpose and mission they found in the military. These veterans are using their skills and leadership to take on tough challenges like homelessness, poverty, and educating our youth. Together, they are making a significant impact and building relationships with their local communities. Today, Joining Forces is proud to highlight several veterans from The Mission Continues who participated in the Thanksgiving service project with the First Family.
Connor Mallon is an excellent example of a veteran who has answered the call of continuing service. Connor served as a squad leader during two deployments to Iraq. After completing his military service, Connor enrolled in college and applied for a Fellowship with The Mission Continues. Connor’s passion for wildlife photography helped him secure a fellowship with the Smithsonian National Zoo as a photographer. During his fellowship, Connor created a professional portfolio of images for the Zoo to use in news releases and digital media.
Ryaja Johnson Rhone served for seven years in the United States Air Force and deployed to Afghanistan. After learning about The Mission Continues, Ryaja was eager to become a fellow. She earned a fellowship with Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that provides disadvantaged women the support they need to find meaningful employment. As a fellow, Ryaja’s goal is to provide more than 345 women with the services and support to put them on the road to great careers.
Vu Nguyen enlisted in the Navy during his senior year of high school and served for four years. Vu was crucial to the operational readiness of the Squadron during their deployment to Bagram Airfield in 2008. After his military service ended, Vu returned to school but had a desire to continue serving, which led him to The Mission Continues. Vu earned a fellowship at the National Veteran’s Center, which provides career-oriented employment and community-based job training to veterans with significant disabilities. He served as a program manager where he utilized the skills he learned in the military to keep the program organized, moving forward, and serving veterans.
This Thanksgiving, the First Lady is thankful for our veterans who have chosen to continue their service at home as community leaders and volunteers through organizations like The Mission Continues. On behalf of the First Lady, we encourage every American to follow the example of these veteran volunteers and find ways to serve. From volunteering at a local charity, to sending a military service member a holiday card, there are many ways to support our military communities during the holiday season. To learn more about getting involved in your local community, visit serve.gov.
Commander Cara LaPointe, US Navy, is a White House Fellow in the Office of the First Lady
- Posted byon November 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM EST
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and beyond. This week, the First and Second Families honored Veterans Day, the President traveled to New Orleans and to Cleveland to speak on the importance of infrastructure to job creation, signed the EpiPen Law, discussed immigration reform with Faith Leaders and attended the 5th Annual Tribal Nations Conference. That's November 8th to November 14th or "We Will Stand By Your Side."
- Posted byon November 12, 2013 at 5:19 PM EST
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited sophomores at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, DC. The First Lady’s remarks continued to expand her focus on issues of youth empowerment and education, in particular working to achieve the President’s “North Star” Goal.
You see, when Barack came into office,” she said, “one of the very first things he did was to set what he calls a North Star goal for America – that by the year 2020, the year that you all will be graduating from college, our country will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
In her remarks, the First Lady spoke directly to young people about committing to their education so that they can create a better future for themselves, their communities, and their country. She also shared some of her personal academic experiences to illustrate her belief that circumstances do not define your future, but rather your attitude.
“My parents didn’t have much money, and they never went to college themselves, but they had an unwavering belief in the power of education, and they always pushed me and my brother to do whatever it took to succeed in school."
“I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to have the strongest academic record possible… so I worked hard to get the best grades that I possibly could in all my classes. I got involved in leadership opportunities in school, where I developed close relationships with teachers and administrators. I knew I needed to present very solid and thoughtful college applications… so I stayed up late at night working on my college essays and personal statements. I knew my parents would not be able to pay for all of my tuition… so I made sure I applied for financial aid on time. And when I encountered doubters…when people told me that I wasn’t going to cut it… I didn’t let that stop me."
- Posted byon November 12, 2013 at 12:26 PM EST
This Veterans Day, the President honored those, past and present, who put on the uniform of the United States military and put their lives on the line.
On Monday morning, the President hosted a breakfast in the East Room of the White House for veterans and their families. In attendance was Richard Overton from Austin, Texas. Richard is the oldest living World War II veteran. The President honored the veteran in his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery, and thanked Richard for his selfless dedication and his courage when he faced adversity.
That’s what we owe veterans like Richard Overton, who served in the Army in World War II. He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, “I only got out of there by the grace of God.”
When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas to a nation bitterly divided by race. And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high. He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity.
- Posted byon November 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM EST
Ed. note: The following op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden appeared this morning on the following military news websites: Military Times, Army Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times, and Navy Times.
Over the past five years, the two of us have had the privilege of traveling across America and around the world to visit with our extraordinary troops, veterans and military families — and time and again, we have been awed by your service and sacrifice.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the courage of our wounded warriors and the devotion of the caregivers who stand by their side. We’ve been inspired by the military spouses and children who’ve endured move after move, deployment after deployment with such strength and grace. And we’ve seen how, even after transitioning to civilian life, our veterans and military families continue to serve, volunteering countless hours in your communities for all sorts of important causes.
That’s why, 2½ years ago, we decided that it was our obligation not only to tell you how much we appreciate everything you do for our country, but to show you by stepping up and giving you and your families the honor, recognition and support you’ve earned. That’s how Joining Forces was born.
The goal of this initiative was to rally all Americans to step up and serve you as well as you have served this country. We challenged individuals, organizations and businesses across the country to make real, meaningful commitments to you and your families. And from the very beginning, we have been overwhelmed by the response. Here are just a few examples:
Employment: It is simply unacceptable that men and women who serve this country so bravely abroad often struggle to find a good job once they return home. Our veterans are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees around. They thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, and they’ve got extensive experience building teams, managing complex logistics, and dealing with cutting-edge technology.
- Posted byon November 8, 2013 at 5:39 PM EST
First Lady Michelle Obama reacts to special effects makeup during the makeup and costume segment of the Film Symposium and Oscars Workshop, in the Blue Room of the White House. November 8, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
This afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the doors of the White House to high school students from DC, New York, and Boston to partake in the first-ever White House Careers in Film Symposium.
The students had an opportunity to learn about animation, special effects, makeup, costume, directing, music and sound effects, and heard from leaders in the film industry about how their education helped them succeed—as well as hear from the First Lady herself.
The First Lady stopped by the workshop and encouraged the students to continue chasing their dreams in film, but to never forget the importance of education and the ability to overcome adversity.
Once you find that passion, whether it’s film -- maybe it's science or business, maybe it's teaching -- anything, you have got to get your education. That's the bottom line. As I tell my kids, you have one job: Get an education. It is the most important thing that you can do for yourselves right now, because that's how you'll prepare yourself for success. You have to be ready. And this is the foundation that you have to have with you when those opportunities come. And that's how you're going to learn the skills that you need to achieve and to keep dreaming big.
Mrs. Obama also encouraged the students to take advantage of their time with the panel saying “And I want you to take advantage of every second that you're here. Ask a lot of questions. Find out who these folks are, what they did. What made them afraid. What was hard. Get as much information as you can. And then go back and work hard.” Students had the opportunity to hear from actors and directors including Whoopi Goldberg, Naomie Harris, Ryan Coogler, David Frankel, Blake Lively, and Gayle King.
Watch the First Lady's remarks below: