Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Obamas Celebrate Christmas 2013 With First Family And Friends, Pay Tribute To Troops

The President and Mrs. Obama visit Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Mele Kalikimaka in Hawaii: Caroling, gifts, Christmas dinner, and a visit with military service members and their families...
Honolulu, HI - President Barack Obama on Wednesday celebrated Christmas privately with the First Family and friends at their vacation rental home in the manicured, upscale town of Kailua before heading to the nearby Marine Corps Base Hawaii for a late afternoon mess hall visit with members of the military.  

Joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, the President, clad casually in a blue short-sleeved button-down shirt and dark khakis, arrived at the ocean-front Base at 4:24 PM.

The President spent more than two hours spreading holiday cheer and paying tribute to 580 troops and their families gathered in Anderson Hall, informally known as Chow Hall.  

POTUS speaks from a stage in Chow Hall
Ahead of the Base visit, in the morning the First Family "gathered around to open up their Christmas gifts and sing carols," a White House official said.  

President Obama requested workout clothes as his Christmas gift, Mrs. Obama revealed last week during a giddy holiday visit with hospitalized children in DC.

"He said that’s what he wanted," Mrs. Obama said, to laughter.  "I’m not forcing my husband to work out...Don’t think--there’s going to be some Let’s Move! joke about how I’m strapping him to the treadmill.  No, he likes to work out."

 First Daughters Malia and Sasha, First Mother-in-Law Marian Robinson, and both family dogs, Bo and Sunny, as well as White House aides landed on Oahu with the President last Friday, Dec. 20, for their sixth consecutive Christmas vacation on island.

Saluting battalions and regiments by name
During the President and Mrs. Obama's visit with the troops, most of the service members were Marines, but the event was also open to members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who were seated at tables and booths for their own holiday dinner. 

The President addressed the crowd from a small stage for about three minutes, using a hand-held mic, with Mrs. Obama by his side, wearing a tank top with a black-and-white geometric print over a black lacy skirt and sandals, her hair in soft waves held back by a sparkling headband.

"We're grateful to you"
President Obama told the group that he had made holiday telephone calls to troops stationed in Afghanistan and Bahrain, among other global deployments.

"It was just a sampling of the incredible sacrifice that all of you and your families make every single day," the President said. 

"Michelle and I know that we would not enjoy the freedoms we do if it weren't for the incredible dedication and professionalism and work that you do.  The least we can do is just let you all know we're grateful to you."

The President singled out several regiments, battalions and patrol units by name, and those in attendance hooted and cheered when their groups were called.

"Thank you so much for your great work," President Obama said.

"We hope that the mess has done right by you and that the food is pretty good," President Obama added before wishing all a "Mele Kalikimaka"--the Hawaiian saying for "Merry Christmas."

"We hope you guys have a great new year as well," he said.

"Mele Kalikimaka"
The First Couple then decamped into a private side room of Chow Hall, where they personally greeted all 580 service members and their families, and posed for photos with all.  Apparently it was a last-minute decision to take photos with everyone, according to the pool reporter on duty.

The President and Mrs. Obama departed the base at 6:45 PM, heading home to Kailua.  "Six minutes later, Obama arrived safely at home on this breezy and dark Hawaiian Christmas night--and, mere seconds later, the White House called a lid," pool noted.  

The White House on Wednesday also issued a pre-recorded video missive from the President and Mrs. Obama, extending Christmas greetings to the nation as an early Weekly Address.  The video also focused on the service and sacrifice of America's service members and their families. 

"Today we want all our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season,” President Obama said in the video.  "And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas. In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than in any time in the last decade."

"And that’s something that we all can be thankful for," Mrs. Obama added.

The First Lady also offered a holiday greeting on Twitter, writing "From our family to yours, Merry Christmas everyone! Have a blessed and safe holiday season. -mo," on her @FLOTUS account.  

Tweets signed with "-mo" are ostensibly written by Mrs. Obama rather than by an aide.

A White House photo of Mrs. Obama fielding NORAD calls
Christmas Eve:  Golf for the President, Santa tracking for the First Lady... 
The First Family's Christmas Day came on the heels of a balmy Christmas Eve, with the President spending six hours playing golf on the course at the Marine base, and Mrs. Obama serving as a phone operator for the NORAD Tracks Santa project, before private evening festivities with family and friends.

The First Family enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at their Kailua compound with family and friends, according to the White House official.  Unlike in past years, the White House did not release a menu.  

But 2012's Christmas feast included turkey, stuffing, string beans, and macaroni and cheese, Mrs. Obama said at the time.

"This is the time when I throw ‘Let's Move’ out the window for a moment, and get that mac and cheese," Mrs. Obama said. "Everybody deserves their mac and cheese."

Pie, President Obama's favorite dessert, was also likely part of the menu:  His favorite Christmas dessert is pumpkin pie, Mrs. Obama said recently

"The President loves pumpkin pie," Mrs. Obama said.  "That’s for sure his favorite treat." 

Ahead of the dinner, the President "made holiday telephone calls to US service members from each branch of the military stationed around the globe," the White House official said, "including personnel who were wounded in an operation in South Sudan last weekend." 

The President's Christmas Eve golf game was a big party on the championship Kaneohe Klipper course: He was joined by seven pals and aides, including including Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass, childhood friends Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos, aide Marvin Nicholson and former aide Reggie Love, and Chicago intimate Eric Whitaker

No scores were released, as is standard White House practice. 

Mrs. Obama, meanwhile, fielded telephone calls from excited children dialing into the NORAD Tracks Santa line, making her fourth annual Christmas Eve outing as a special field operator.

Wearing a bright blue tank top and a black sparkling headband, Mrs. Obama was in the Kailua rental home as she spent about half an hour in the morning chatting with nine families with kids ranging from age three to age nine, from Kansas City to Ontario, Canada.   

Santa was "traveling at the speed of light," Mrs. Obama advised, and he'd already "delivered over 3 million presents." 

She briefed the kids on Santa's location and urged them to go to sleep so Father Christmas could finish his job.  

The special reindeer-and-sleigh satellite radar offered each Christmas by the North American Aerospace Defense Command since the late 1950's showed that Santa was flying from Egypt to South Sudan, and then on to South Africa, Mrs. Obama said. Her repeated urgings for the kids to go to bed had to be music to harried parents' ears. 

President Obama has no public or official events scheduled for the duration of his vacation, which will last until January 5th, 2014, when he will return to Washington, DC.

CLICK HERE for links to holiday posts and CLICK HERE for links to all Hawaii posts.


*Photos by pool; NORAD photo of the First Lady by Pete Souza/White House