National Christmas Tree
December 6, 2001
5:55 P.M. EST
Be seated, please -- except for you all. (Laughter.)
I want to thank you very much, and welcome you all to this year's Christmas
Pageant of Peace. During this time of conflict and challenge, we once again
celebrate the season of hope and the season of joy. We give thanks to our nation
and to our families, and to our friends.
The First Lady and I are so honored to be here. I want to thank Peter Nostrand
and the committee for putting this together, and I particularly want to thank
the entertainment committee -- the person in charge of getting these fantastic
entertainers to come tonight. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the employees and sponsors who put on this magnificent event.
I want to thank Fran Minella, the Director of the National Park Service, and
all the Park Service employees who have worked hard to put this event on. (Applause.)
I want to thank Santa Clause for being here tonight. (Laughter and applause.)
I've been looking for you, Santa. (Laughter.)
In a moment, we will light the National Christmas Tree, a tradition Americans
have been celebrating since 1923. The history of this event has included some
memorable moments, including 60 years ago, less than three weeks after the attack
on Pearl Harbor, when Prime Minister Winston Churchill made an appearance with
President Franklin Roosevelt to light the tree.
Now, once again, we celebrate Christmas in a time of testing, with American
troops far from home. This season finds our country with losses to mourn and
great tasks to complete. In all those tasks, it is worth recalling the words
from a beautiful Christmas hymn -- in the third verse of "Oh Holy Night"
we sing, "His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Change ye shall break,
for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease."
America seeks peace, and believes in justice. We fight only when necessary.
We fight so that oppression may cease. And even in the midst of war, we pray
for peace on Earth and goodwill to men. (Applause.)
This is a time of the year for families and friends to gather together. Not
simply to celebrate the season, but to renew the bonds of love and affection
that give fulfillment to our lives. And this is a year we will not forget those
who lost loved ones in the attacks on September the 11th and on the battlefield.
They will remain in our prayers.
It is now my honor to invite Leon Patterson and Faith Elseth and Laura to join
me up here as we light the National Christmas Tree. (Applause.)
Leon and Faith's fathers, Major Clifford Patterson, and Lt. Commander Robert
Elseth served in the United States military. Both of these good men were lost
in the attack on the Pentagon.
Leon and Faith, we thank you for helping us celebrate Christmas. You remind
us of the comfort of Christmas that hope never fails, and love never ends.
And now, would you please help Laura light up our beautiful tree.