the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at Children's National Medical Center

2:53 P.M. EST

        DR. NEWMAN:  Now, I'm Kurt Newman.  I'm the President and CEO here.  And we're just thrilled to have Mrs. Obama with us.  We just had a wonderful tour to see a lot of the babies up in the neonatal intensive care nursery and on the intestinal rehab unit, and we talked to lots of doctors, nurses, patients.  So we're thrilled to have her here today, with Santa Claus and Bo, to read a story about Christmas.

        MRS. OBAMA:  All right, we ready?  Can everybody hear me?

        AUDIENCE:  Yes.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Well, first of all, how's everybody doing?  

        AUDIENCE:  Good.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Yeah?  Is it exciting?  Christmas is coming.  How many people have done their letters to Santa?  You got to get on it, you got to get on it.  (Laughter.)  You got to get your letters done.

        All right, I'm going to read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".  How many people have heard that?  Good, good.  So you can help out, where possible, okay?  And I'll try to show some of the pictures as well.  I had the honor of reading this with guess who?  Kermit the Frog.  Me and Kermit, reading it -- it was very exciting.  

        Hey -- hey, you, little one -- (laughter) -- what's going on?  What are you talking -- are you scaring her?  All right, you guys good?  All right.

        Okay, we're going to read.  Okay, folks, sit, sit.  Are you ready?  Okay.

        (Begins reading.)

        All right, this is the night before Christmas -- it's, like, Christmas Eve.  Santa is coming; a lot of excitement.

        (Continues reading.)

        What do you think he was looking for?

        AUDIENCE:  Santa.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Well, let's see.  You think it was -- what was going on, Santa?  We'll see, we'll see.  All right.

        (Continues reading.)

        Do we know their names?  Do you want to say them with me, if we can?

        Now, Dasher!  Now, Dancer!  Now, Prancer and Vixen!  On, Comet!  On, Cupid!  On, Donner and Blitzen!  To the top of the porch!  To the top of the the wall!  Now dash away, dash away, dash away, all!

        CHILD:  Santa!  That looks like you!

        MRS. OBAMA:  It does look like you.

        SANTA:  Thank you.  (Laughter.)

        MRS. OBAMA:  Yeah, good one, goon one.  Now, which reindeer is missing?

        AUDIENCE:  Rudolph.

        MRS. OBAMA:  That's right, where is Rudolph in this story?

        SANTA:  He comes later.

        MRS. OBAMA:  He's later?  Later?

        (Continues reading.)
        He's coming!  He's coming into your house -- (laughter) -- with stuff.  How exciting!  What does he have?

        (Continues reading.)

        Way to go, Santa.  (Laughter.)  He cleaned up for you guys.  He got rid of the soot.

        (Continues reading.)

        SANTA:  Ho, ho, ho!

        MRS. OBAMA:  Like a bowl full of jelly.  (Laughter.)

        Way to go.  Way to be on cue, Santa.  (Laughter.)

        SANTA:  Ho, ho, ho!

        MRS. OBAMA:  (Continues reading.)

        He's busy, putting stuff under the tree.  It's coming.  Christmas is coming!  It's so exciting!  Oh, my goodness.

        (Continues reading.)

        He's got to go to a lot of houses.  How do you do it?  (Laughter.)  

        SANTA:  -- secrets.

        MRS. OBAMA:  It’s a miracle.  No secrets.

        He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle.  And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.  But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

        AUDIENCE:  A good night.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Yay!  (Applause.)  

        That’s a good Christmas song.  Okay, so we have time for some questions, my favorite part of this experience.  Because the questions are very interesting.

        HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Boys and girls, do you have some questions for the First Lady?

        MRS. OBAMA:  We’ve got -- I see one little red, beautiful red dress.  You feel like telling me your name?  

        AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Ellington.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Ellington.  Ooh, beautiful name.  What’s your name?

        AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Addison.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Addison and Ellington.  will you speak for the both of you?  Thank you.

        AUDIENCE MEMBER:  What does your family do on Christmas Eve?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What does my family do on Christmas Eve?  Well, we have a tradition.  My husband grew up in Hawaii, right?  That’s where his family is And that’s hometown for us.  And we’ve gone there every year for 20 years.  So every year, we go to Hawaii.  And by the time Christmas Eve comes around, we put out the cookies for Santa.  We usually have a fun Christmas Eve dinner, and all the kids get around -- they’re playing, they’re really excited, and they don’t go to bed right away because they’re too excited, and then we have to make them go to bed.  It’s a big hassle.  And then we wait for Santa.  It’s pretty simple.

        What do you guys do on Christmas Eve?  What are you going to do on Christmas Eve?

        Q    On Christmas Eve, we light the tree and --

        MRS. OBAMA:  Wait for Santa.

        Q    We light the tree, we eat dinner --

        MRS. OBAMA:  Eat dinner.

        Q    -- we go to bed.  Most of the time my sisters and I are always awake until around 10, just waiting.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Just waiting, can’t sleep.  The anticipation.

        Q    And most of the time we see my dad going down the hallway.  (Laughter.)  

        MRS. OBAMA:  Thanks, Ellington.  And Addision.  Thanks for the question.

        Any other questions?  We’ve got people with mics.  Oh, here we go.  Here’s one over here.  What’s your name, sweetie?

        Q    Alex.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Alex.  Hey, Alex.  What’s happening?

        Q    What does your family like to eat on Christmas?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What do we like to eat on Christmas?  Sometimes we have turkey, sometimes we have steak.  The girls love --

        Q    Ew!

        MRS. OBAMA:  Ew?  (Laughter.)  

        Q    Steak?

        MRS. OBAMA:  Steak.

        Q    Ew!

        MRS. OBAMA:  You don’t like steak?  

        Q    We don’t eat any --

        MRS. OBAMA:  Well, we only have steak.  (Laughter.)  And we -- and our girls love macaroni and cheese.

        Q    Oh, me, too.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, that’s big on the menu.  Got to have a little macaroni and cheese.  But we have lots of vegetables.  

        Q    So do we.

        MRS. OBAMA:  What kind of vegetables?  String beans?  We have string beans.  

        Q    Carrots.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Carrots.  Carrots are good.  What other good vegetables?

        Q    Broccoli.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Broccoli, that’s our favorite.  We have a lot of broccoli.  What about you, Addison?

        Q    -- salad.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Salad.  So we have lots of vegetables that go with our food.

        Q    And spinach.

        MRS. OBAMA:  And spinach!  All right, so you know, with your dinner, having a little meat and having some vegetables, be a good thing.  We do it at our house, okay?  And then we have dessert.  And we have pie.  Lots of pie.  The President loves pie.  (Laughter.)  All kinds of pie.  Okay?

        Q    Do you like pie?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What?

        Q    Blueberry pie?

        MRS. OBAMA:  Blueberry pie.  What other kind of pies?

        Q    All of them.

        MRS. OBAMA:  What?

        Q    All of them.

        MRS. OBAMA:  All of them -- all of the pies.  

        MODERATOR:  All right, Mrs. Obama, we have one over here for you.  Right over here.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, okay.

        Q    What is your favorite Christmas movie?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What’s my favorite Christmas movie?  Oh, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Yes, that's my -- well, yes, that's considered a Christmas movie.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” -- have you seen that movie?

        Q    No.

        MRS. OBAMA:  It’s an old black-and-white movie -- yes, I know.  It’s just -- (laughter.)  All right, so that's the old people’s movie.  Let me think of a current move that you’d be familiar with.  What’s a good Christmas movie?

        Q    “The Polar Express?”

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I love -- well, that's not a movie.  I love “Charlie Brown Christmas,” but that's not a movie.  But my favorite holiday movie of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and you should get it because it’s about a man who thinks he’s not useful in the world.  And he’s got this beautiful family, and something happens and he wishes that he weren’t there, and a little angel comes down and grants his wish, and he sees what would happen in the world if he wasn’t there.  And even though he doesn't think his life is significant, he sees that the whole town falls apart.  And then he wakes up and realizes that he’s got “A Wonderful Life.”  My favorite story.  (Laughter.)  It’s very sad.

        HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Okay, we have another question.  

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I was getting into that a little too much.  Where is the other question?  Okay, what’s your name?

        Q    Ebony.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Ebony.  Hi.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t sing.  If my kids were here, they’d be embarrassed.  But they're not so don't tell them.  (Laughter.)

        Q    What is your favorite Christmas story?

        MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite Christmas story?  I like “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  That's a good one.  I always read that one.  That's one of my favorites.  

        Yes.  All right, any other questions?  Who do we have?  All right.  Right here.  What’s your name?

        Q    Dionne.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Dale?

        Q    Dionne.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Dionne.

        Q    What do you personally give the President for Christmas?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What -- say that again?

        Q    What do you give the President for Christmas?

        MRS. OBAMA:  For Christmas?  Well, again, we go through this every year.  I’m not going to say because it’s going to be reported in the paper and it won’t be a surprise.  (Laughter.)  Because he will read it.  And he’ll say, Oh, that's what you’re getting me.  So you know I try to get him stuff that he likes to do, sports stuff, clothes.  But the truth is, we generally -- we always say we’re not going to give each other gifts because the gift is the love that we have for each other.  Yes, that's a good thing.  (Applause.)  But then he usually gets me something.  And them I’m like, we weren’t supposed to get each other stuff. so I got him something but I’m not going to say.  All right?  That make sense?  Last year one of the kids suggested that I get him a hot tub.  (Laughter.)  Remember that?  We didn't get him a hot tub.  (Laughter.)  

        All right, young lady.  

        Q    What did you ask Santa for this year?

        MRS. OBAMA:  What did I ask Santa for this year?  I haven’t done my ask FOR Santa.  

        Q    You got to get on that!

        MRS. OBAMA:  I got to get on it.  (Laughter.)  It’s true.  But what I really, really want is for all kids to grow up with the chance to be healthy and happy, and to live a good life, and to get a good education, and to grow up and be anything they want to be.  And if every child could have just that simple gift out of life, that would be a wonderful Christmas present for me.

        I try to do it for my girls, and I know there are some kids that don’t have the support and the love that they need, and I wish every kid had the same kind of support and love that I know many of you have, because you are fortunate enough to be here and be surrounded by people who care about you.  I just want that for all kids all over the world.  (Applause.)

        All right, we’ve got this young lady in the maroon turtleneck.  Yes, you had your hand up.  

        What’s your name?

        Q    Veronica.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Nice to see you.

        Q    Do you all have parties -- do you have like a Christmas party at the White House?

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, do we.  (Laughter.)  We have -- my staff is -- we open the house right -- the day after Thanksgiving the big tree comes, and volunteers come from all over the country and they decorate the White House.  And they decorate for about four days.  We’ve got tons of Christmas trees, beautiful decorations.  This year we’ve done a tree for Gold Star families, which are families who have lost a loved one who is serving in the military.  And the big tree is in dedication to Blue Star families, and those are families who have a loved one serving in the military.  

        So it was a very special time decorating, because a lot of these families came to help decorate.  Once they finish, we open up the house, and we’ll have over 85,000 people who will come through the White House.  and we have holiday parties.  We have almost two every day for two weeks.  So, yes, we have holiday parties.  And the President and I are at every holiday party, and we shake almost every hand or take a picture, and we usually do them twice a day.  So, yes, we have a few people that come over.

        Q    Thank you.

        MRS. OBAMA:  What’s your name?

        Q    Cameron.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Camera?

        Q    Cameron.

        MRS. OBAMA:  I’m like, Camera?  (Laughter.)  Cameron -- hey, Cameron.

        Q    I was just wondering, how does Santa know which chimney to go down?

        MRS. OBAMA:  Well, that’s -- would you like to handle that one, Santa?

        SANTA:    I always go for the biggest one.  The bigger --

        Q    The biggest?

        SANTA:  -- the easier is to get in there.

        Q    Oh, well, you’re pretty skinny around now, man.  (Laughter.)  

        SANTA:  Yes.  I still have a few more weeks to get --

        MRS. OBAMA:  He’s got time.

        SANTA:  I got time.

        MRS. OBAMA:  You can do a lot in a couple of weeks.  (Laughter.)

        HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Great.  Well, thanks for those wonderful questions.

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, thank you, guys.

        HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Mrs. Obama, on behalf of Children’s National, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to be with us.  (Applause.)

        MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my pleasure.  My pleasure.  (Applause.)

END 3:11 P.M. EST