East Room, The White House
12:49 P.M. EST
THE FIRST LADY: Hi, everybody. Oh, I just want them to play longer, don’t you? (Laughter.) It sounds beautiful. Thank you! (Addresses Marine Corps band.)
So, thank you. And, gosh, over the last two years, I’ve traveled to almost 40 states, to rural counties and to big cities. And again and again, the Americans I’ve met have shown me the soul of our nation:
The optimism that glowed on the faces of future teachers in Tennessee, who dreamed of changing the world one student at a time.
The hope of the gospel songs that washed over me like healing water in a South Carolina church.
The gratitude of each new American citizen I watched recite the oath in a naturalization ceremony in California.
The empathy of the nurse navigator I met in Florida, who understood that no one should have to go through cancer care alone.
The resolve of the survivors of loss, whose love for each other is the only thing strong enough to overcome their grief and their pain.
And the pride I saw in military bases across this country — loved ones and family members who put their shoulders back and their chins up through every single deployment.
I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve gone: When our country comes together, we are stronger. What we share is so much greater than the things that pull us apart.
The soul of our nation is and always has been “We the People.” And that is — (applause) — yes. (Laughs.) And that is what has inspired this year’s White House holiday decorations.
The values that unite us can be found all around you: a belief in possibility and optimism and unity. Room by room, we represent what brings us together during the holidays and throughout the year.
The Gold Star trees honor and remember those who laid down their lives for our country and the families who carry on their legacies.
In the Library, we celebrate how the stories we share bring us closer to each other, our history, and the world around us.
In the Vermeil Room, we honor how the smallest acts of kindness and appreciation really do matter.
In the China Room, we remember family traditions passed down at dinner tables full of laughter.
In the East Room, where we are right now, we highlight the national treasures that belong to all of us: the National Parks and the communion we find in nature. So you can see them on all the mirrors if you look around you. All the National Parks are celebrated.
And in the Green Room, bells of all kinds remind us of the healing and unifying power of music.
In the Red Room, we know that in times of both joy and grief, faith can light the way.
And in the State Dining Room, we honor the promise of the next generation and see the holidays through the eyes of children.
And in the Blue Room, the official birds of all 57 states and territories, and of our nation’s capital, are woven together to transform the 18-foot Christmas Tree into a stunning symbol of unity. Wasn’t that tree, like, so magnificent? (Applause.)
Throughout these halls, from the shining bells to the mirrored ornaments in the Grand Foyer behind me, you will see your own reflection and a reminder that — a request to see yourself in this house.
And we are grateful to be able to welcome Americans home.
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to meet with National Guard families from more than 30 states and territories as part of my White House initiative to support military families, and it’s called Joining Forces.
We wanted them to be a part of this special day because they represent — you all represent the heart of our communities: men and women who choose to serve even as they pursue other careers, who answer the call of duty in our hometowns as quickly as disasters strike and needs arise.
Though our nation res- — relies on their courage, the service of our Guardsmen and women, and of their families, often goes unseen, especially children of the National Guard members. This morning, these incredible kids told me their stories, and we heard of how we can better support them. All of us have a role to play. It starts by recognizing their service and letting them know that they are not alone.
As a fellow National Guard mom and a grandmom, I wanted to welcome the National Guard families to help us open this holiday season as my honored guests. Your service is the embodiment of “We the People.”
So to all the National Guard families, please wave so that we can applaud you. So, please wave. Tell us who are you. (Applause.) I see that little hand back there waving. (Laughter.)
And now, to the volunteers who brought this holiday vision to life: All of this would not be possible without your hard work. You gave up time with your family this holiday weekend, and many of you traveled from far away to be here. And you’ve worked long hours in service of this gift.
Now, some of you may still have a little glue gun residue on your fingers — (laughter) — or sore backs from hanging up all that snow in the Colonnade. And yesterday, you might have thought, “If I have to tie just one more bow, I’m out of here!” (Laughter.) Am I right? I’m sure some of you had a — a couple of those thoughts. (Audience member claps.) Yes, especially in the back there. (Laughter.)
But I also hope you’ve made some lifelong friends and felt the unique joy that only comes from the chaos of the holidays.
And so, with all my heart, thank you for everything that you’ve done.
And I have a few other thank-yous that are close to my heart: the State Teachers of the Year from across the country who worked with their students to send in self-portraits to be featured in ornaments on the Christmas trees in our “We the Children” room. (Applause.) So, to those teachers and students, who are all likely in their classrooms right now, thank you for being part of our holiday season.
And to another teacher who is here, Daria Peoples. Where is Daria? Oh, there you are! Daria — Daria, come on up. And how ironic is it that her last name is “Peoples” for “We the People”? (Laughter.) I mean, that was just — happened.
So, Daria is an elementary school art teacher and children’s book author from Las Vegas, Nevada, and she illustrated the two thou- — 2022 White House Holiday Guide. (Applause.) I was so glad to feature a teacher as our holiday illustrator of the year. (Applause.)
We may celebrate different holidays, we may sing different songs or say different prayers, but our shared American values endure season after season. May the promise of “We the People” light our path forward into the new year and bring us together always.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
God bless you. God bless our troops and their families. Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you for being here.