Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Obamas Host 2011 Congressional Picnic

"I want you guys to eat until you can’t eat any more...And then tomorrow you can 'Let’s Move,'" President tells lawmakers & their families...
Some people still smoke at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) puffed on a cigarette on the South Lawn on Wednesday evening at President Obama and First Lady Obama's annual Congressional Picnic. The shindig was already in full swing, with the bipartisan crowd from both chambers of Congress and their families enjoying themselves to the rollicking tunes of the Navy Band playing on a big stage, when the President and Mrs. Obama strolled onto the South Lawn from the West Wing. They took the stage to welcome their guests under still-sunny skies at 7:17 PM. (Top: A long view of the South Lawn; inset is Bohener in action)

"I want you guys to eat until you can’t eat any more. All right? And then tomorrow you can "Let’s Move," The President said, to laughter, as he pointed at his wife. Mrs. Obama rolled her eyes, and smiled.

All American foods were on offer from country fair-style booths arrayed around the South Lawn: Chicken in a Basket, "Corny Dogs," Kettle Corn. Hot Dogs, Cheeseburgers and Hamburgers, slices of watermelon and salad were also being served.

“I take full responsibility for the weather,” said the President, smiling. "This is always one of the best events of the year for us, mainly because with all the work that we do with members of Congress and their staffs, all too often we don’t get a chance to say thank you to the families."

Vice President Joe Biden greeted guests, who sat at tables for ten, draped in yellow table clothes with centerpieces of wildflowers that were low-key and rough, and looked as if they'd been plucked from a home garden. The event had the feel of a country-style family picnic, anywhere in America, except that many of the lawmakers were clad in work gear, wearing ties and button down shirts, though their jackets had been discarded. The President stressed the family-style ambiance.

Kids dipped into ice cream treats as the President spoke, Mrs. Obama by his side. She was clad in a blue and white striped tank dress and red ballet flats, an outfit change from earlier in the day, when she'd built an entire playground with a group of the lawmakers during a Congressional Day of Service event at a DC school. (Above: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at left)

"We've got Democrats here and the Republicans here, and we all have differences on issues at every given moment, but the one thing that we have to remind ourselves every day is we’re all Americans and we’re all part of the American family," President Obama said.

As he thanked the Navy Band, the President payed his respects to the Armed Forces. (Above: Sen. Max Baucus dances the two-step with Melodee Hanes, his fiancee)

"We’ve got some service members here who helped to not only play the banjo and make some wonderful music, but folks who serve each and every day," President Obama said. "For all of those who serve our country in uniform, thank you so much and God bless you. We’re all grateful to you."

A bipartisan group from the House earlier on Wednesday had filed a federal suit against the President for the military mission in Libya, questioning the constitutional and legal justifications for military action.

After his remarks, the President and First Lady stepped from the stage and mingled with the crowd. The full transcript of the President's remarks IS HERE.

Boehner had Press Secretary Jay Carney in stitches at one point (above).

Perhaps they were talking golf: Boehner will play with the President this Saturday, in what's been dubbed a "Golf Summit." UPDATE, June 18: A post about the POTUS Invitational IS HERE.

The Congressional Picnic party wound down shortly after sunset. (Above: A long view of the food stations)

*White House video; Getty photos