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 the National Cherry Blossom Festival Centennial Tree Planting Ceremony

Tidal Basin
Washington, D.C.

11:22 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you.  Thank you so much, it is a true pleasure to be here on this beautiful, little chilly day.  (Laughter.)  We planned it.  This is the only cold day of the week, and we are here.  But I am pleased to be here.

I want to start by thanking Secretary Salazar for that very kind introduction, and for all of his outstanding work as Secretary of the Interior.

I want to thank and recognize Ambassador Fujisaki, as well as Mrs. Fujisaki, who are here today.  Thank you all so much, I know you're here somewhere -- oh, you're here.  (Laughter.)  It's good to see you both.  And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to join us for this historic event.

We have come together to celebrate these beautiful cherry blossom trees -- and yes, they were blooming last week.  We were so close.  (Laughter.)  But I think the tree we're planting will -- still has a few blooms, but they are beautiful.  And we are here to honor all that they stand for.  For so many years, these trees have served as a symbol of the great friendship between the United States and Japan, and as a reminder of our shared hopes, dreams and aspirations. 

People from both of our nations worked together for years to bring these trees here to Washington.  And over the past century, people of all ages from the U.S. and Japan and so many other nations have come to this Tidal Basin each spring to marvel at their beauty.  And year after year, even after the coldest, darkest, stormiest winters, these trees have continued to bloom. 

So on this historic anniversary, we don’t just admire the beauty of these trees, we also admire their resilience.  And in so doing, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience of the Japanese people.  Over the past year, we have all witnessed their courage, unity and grace as they have come together and begun the very hard work of rebuilding their nation.

And I think that that more than anything else is the lesson that we can learn from these trees.  They teach us about all that we can achieve together.  And because people from both of our nations came together, this landscape was transformed.  And for one hundred years, people from every background and every walk of life have come here to experience, truly, the magic of these trees. 

No matter who you are, their beauty stirs our souls.  No matter where we’re from, being here among these beautiful blossoms truly lifts our spirits.  And that is why we invited all of these wonderful children to join us -- where are the children?  There they are.  (Applause.)  They are here because we want them to learn this lesson as well; we want to pass this lesson onto them.  We want to teach them about the great partnership between our nations and what that means for our shared future.  We want to teach them to appreciate and learn from the traditions and cultures of others.
And we want them to be inspired by the example of our friends in Japan who have worked so hard and who have been so brave in rebuilding their lives.  Because in the end it will be up to them, this next generation, to continue that great friendship.  It will be up to them to carry these traditions forward so that one hundred years from now, their children and grandchildren will be able to come here to this very spot and see the tree that we will plant, full grown and in full bloom. 

And I hope that on that day, the First Lady –- or the First Gentleman –- of 2112 will also have the privilege of joining with our friends from Japan, and planting another tree which will bloom for yet another one hundred years and beyond.  

So with that, I want to once again thank you all for joining us today, and bearing the frigid cold.  If you stick around for one more day, it will be 80 tomorrow, I guarantee you.  (Laughter.)  It's really nice weather here.  But we are truly honored to have you here, and it's a pleasure to be able to join in this very special occasion. 

And with that, I think it is time for us to plant a tree.  (Applause.)

11:27 A.M. EDT