President Barack Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, used his weekly address Saturday to issue a Christmas greeting to Americans, asking them to focus on remembering those who are less fortunate and those who are spending the holidays away from their families while serving in the military overseas.
“This is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption,” the president said. “A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another — we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.”
The first couple encouraged Americans to do what they can to support the troops and their families during the holidays. Obama said the message he delivered to U.S. servicemen and women during a surprise visit to Afghanistan earlier this month was that “every American supports you and your families.”
“If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church,” Michelle Obama said. “If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying ‘thank you.’“
Rep. Joe Pitts (Pa.) delivered a similar message on Friday in the GOP weekly address.
“In this time of year when we gather to celebrate family and fellowship, we are reminded of the fulfillment that comes from humbly serving one another,” Pitts said. “As a Vietnam veteran myself, I know the stress of being separated at this time of year.”
The first family is vacationing over the Christmas holiday at a rented home on Kailua Bay in Hawaii. In Saturday’s address, the first lady noted that more than 100,000 Americans passed through the halls of the White House, which is decorated annually for the holiday season.
“The idea behind this year’s theme, ‘Simple Gifts,’ is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing — the comfort of spending time with loved ones … the freedoms we enjoy as Americans … and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves,” Michelle Obama said. “So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer, let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.”
According to the Associated Press, the Obamas will spend Christmas Day with the president’s sister and her family. Several of the president’s childhood friends and family friends from Chicago are also in town. The first family’s Christmas Day menu includes steak, roasted potatoes, green beans and pie.
The Obamas are expected to return to Washington on Jan. 2.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.