Honoring the Armed Forces & their families with USO concert and All-American picnic featuring burgers, dogs, and Dogfish Head craft beer...includes videos
Simultaneous with celebrating the thirteenth birthday of daughter Malia on Monday, July 4th, President Obama and First Lady Obama welcomed about 1,200 members of the military and their families to their annual Independence Day barbecue and concert at the White House. (Above: The President greets guests)
The party started in the afternoon, and all dined on traditional American fare amidst the red, white, and blue decorations festooning the South Lawn. Kids were treated to face painting and balloon animals, and the President's Own Marine Corps Band entertained with snazzy renditions of patriotic favorites. Grammy award-winning rock band Train and singer/songwriter Amos Lee gave a special concert later in the evening, and the event ended with a viewing of the fireworks over the National Mall. (Above: The President and First Lady welcome guests)
Speaking from the bunting-draped Truman Balcony shortly afer 6:00 PM, President Obama wished all a "Happy Fourth of July" to huge cheers. He thanked the troops for their service, and promised to provide them and their families with all the support and care possible. The President was clad in a casual blue polo shirt and khaki slacks, while Mrs. Obama stood by his side dressed in a red and blue floral-patterned sundress. Her hair was pulled back and she wore dramatic hoop earrings.
"You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor and who've made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy," President Obama tols the troops. "You're the reason why America and our Armed Forces remain the greatest force for peace and security that the world has ever known."
All five branches of the Armed Forces were represented, and service men and women accompanied the First Couple on the balcony as President Obama spoke. He gave a number of personal shoutouts, and also reflected on America's Founding Fathers and the importance of democracy.
"I think that that small band of patriots who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence and risked their lives for freedom might be surprised to see their legacy all these years later," President Obama said.
He added that America's success has been possible thanks to "our founders' central faith that through democracy and individual rights, ordinary people have it within their means to forge a nation that's more just and more equal and more free." (Above: Mrs. Obama posing for a photo with guests)
The President and Mrs. Obama walked down the steps of the South Portico after his brief remarks, and greeted guests along a rope line. Both shook hands, posed for photos, and held babies.
The menu and decorations...
The feast included hot dogs and hamburgers, corn, a green salad, watermelon, and ice cream. Both Pepsi and Coca Cola were being served, in an amusing form of bipartisanship. Beer and wine was poured for the adults. Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass seems to have had a hand in the beer selection: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales' "60 Minute IPA" was served. Kass and Dogfish founder/brewer Sam Calagione met last month at an event in New York City, because both were named to Fast Company magazine's 2011 list of the "100 Most Creative People in Business."
Kass and Calagione had a beer-appreciation tete-a-tete during their meeting, with Kass inviting Calagione to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to give advice on the White House chefs' own homebrewing operation. According to the Dogfish website, the beer served at the White House is India Pale Ale brewed with more than 60 additions of Northwest hops over a 60 minute boil, thus the name. The brewery describes the brew as the "session beer for hardcore beer enthusiasts!"
Pottsville, Pennsylvania's Yuengling Light was also served, as was Michelob lager. A brew from Yuengling was also selected for President Obama's Super Bowl Party in January, as was White House homebrew. Red paper lanterns hung from trees, and guests were seated at tables covered in red or white or blue table clothes, with centerpieces made of paper plates stapled together to look like lollipops. A huge figure of Uncle Sam stood watch over the shindig. (Above: The President with a young guest)
At around 8:15 PM, singer/songwriter Lee, who is based in Philadelphia, PA, took the stage to kick off the USO "Salute to the Military" concert. Train, a trio based in San Francisco, CA, performed next, and sang a number of their hits. The USO celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. (Above: Train performing)
A severe storm dumped plenty of rain on Washington earlier in the weekend, and the grounds were still muddy. Thunderclouds threatened and eventually made true on their promise, but it didn't really spoil anyone's fun, and the rain was done by the time the concert started. Earlier in the day, irain had forced the cancellation of one of President Obama's golf outings.
Shortly after 9:00 PM, guests, who also included and Administration staff and their families, watched the very impressive, very loud fireworks display that was being shot above the National Mall; the South Lawn affords an ideal view. (Above: The President and Mrs. Obama greet guests)
The fireworks display over the National Mall:
Members of the military and their families invited to the party were selected by the White House, according to an aide, while USO provided the entertainment. The celebration was livestreamed. The First Family spent the holiday weekend at Camp David; President Obama returned to the White House on Sunday evening.