In an early edition of his weekly address, President Obama on Thursday sent the nation Thanksgiving greetings, and said he'd be spending the last holiday of his first term in the White House doing the same things many Americans do: "This is a day full of family and friends, food and football." The President and First Family were joined for their closed-press feast in the Blue Room by extended family and White House staff and their families. Fifteen players from the Oregon State University men's basketball team were also at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate with the First Family; their head coach is Craig Robinson, brother to First Lady Michelle Obama. (Above: Robinson, center, with his sister and the President on Thanksgiving Day)
During their visit, the Beavers, clad in orange dress sweat suits, had a tour of the White House, shot hoops on the basketball court, and met with President Obama in the Oval Office. They joined the First Family for a visit to a DC-area food bank on Wednesday afternoon, too. (Above: The players wore dress sweats during the Thanksgiving meal in the Blue Oval Room)
"To be able to come out here and get some quality time working hard on a service project and then actually having a meal at the White House was really special," Robinson said in an interview with Oregon State's Official Athletic Site, which posted the behind-the-scenes photos published here.
"It was really nice to share my Oregon State family with my real family and vice versa," Robinson said.
Among the players Robinson brought were senior Joe Burton, juniors Roberto Nelson, Michael Moyer, Jullian Powers, C.J. Mitchell, sophomore Daniel Gomis, and freshmen Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid, Victor Robbins and Olaf Schaftenaar.
"They were extremely helpful on the service day," Robinson said of his team. "They were extremely gracious at the White House and very inquisitive. It just made me very proud to be their coach."
Some of the players visited the White House last year during Thanksgiving, but did not dine with the First Family.
The Thanksgiving feast was held early in the afternoon, and was casual; the President wore khaki pants and a button down shirt, while the First Lady was in a jersey shirt and head band. The service was from a buffet, with the long spread set up along a table in the Cross Hall. The Blue Room is the center drawing room on the State Floor. As previously reported here, the 2012 Presidential Thanksgiving menu is the same menu the First Family has enjoyed each year since moving into the White House.
Executive Chef Cris Comerford used vegetables from Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden for many of the dishes; the garden grows through all four seasons. The star of the show was the Top Toque's organic Thyme-Roasted Turkey, brined for twelve hours with garlic and brown sugar before cooking. It was accompanied by a sherry-based Gravy. Honey Baked Ham also shared the spotlight, and there were two kinds of stuffing: Cornbread Stuffing and Oyster Stuffing. Sides included a Kale Salad with Marcona Almonds; Macaroni and Cheese; Sweet Potatoes; Mashed Potatoes; Green Bean Casserole; and Dinner Rolls.
The President loves pie, and the big finish to the dinner was six kinds of pie: Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Cherry, Banana Cream, Apple, and Huckleberry. The White House pastry chefs also created a special cake in honor of the team, which featured white frosting, little marzipan basketballs, and their team insignia (above).
On Thursday morning, in keeping with a Thanksgiving tradition, President Obama called ten members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of the war in Afghanistan. "The President thanked each of them for their service and sacrifice and wished them and their families a Happy Thanksgiving,” the White House said. He called two service members in the Army, two in the Air Force, two in the Coast Guard, two in the Marine Corps, and two in the Navy.
On Wednesday afternoon in a Rose Garden Ceremony, President Obama pardoned two very lucky turkeys, Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler, raised for Cargill Retail Meat Solutions, Inc. in Rockingham County, Virginia, by farmers Craig and Nancy Miller. Cobbler is the first Tom in history to win the honor of being the National Thanksgiving Turkey thanks to a White House Facebook contest, "Thanksgiving Decision 2012." (Above: The President with team members in the Oval Office, in a photo released by the White House)
"The only cobbler anyone’s eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream," the President joked at the presentation ceremony.
The two turkeys will spend their days at President George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, located right outside the nation's Capitol. They will be featured in 'Christmas at Mount Vernon' through Jan. 6, 2012.
President Obama began his week with a four-day tour through Asia, the first overseas trip since his reelection. He has no public events scheduled through Sunday. The First Lady will kick off the winter holiday season on Friday morning, when she accepts delivery of the Official White House Christmas Tree during a ceremony by the North Portico. (Above: Robinson with his team on the White House basketball court)
The President's 2012 Thanksgiving Address:
Related: The President's 2012 Thanksgiving Proclamation.White House chefs Comerford and Kass explain American Thanksgiving traditions in this State Department video. For more information about Cobbler and Gobbler, including an interview with the Millers, click here.
*Oval Office photo by Pete Souza/White House; others by Oregon State University.
Originally posted at 8:51 AM; updated 9:00 PM.