The President Brings Christmas Cheer to Boys and Girls Club

Uploaded by whitehouse on 21.12.2009

President Obama: What is your name?
Child: Oh, me?
President Obama: Yes.
Child: Cory.
President Obama: Cory. What is your name?
Child: Hassan.
President Obama: Hassan, good to see you. What's your name?
Child: Hey.
Child: My name is Robin.
President Obama: Robin, all right. We're going to read the
Polar Express. Anybody read this before?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: It's an outstanding book.
Child: It's a movie.
President Obama: Is it a movie too, yeah. Did you see the movie?
Child: I did.
Child: I have.
President Obama: Well, I will try to make sure my reading is
as fine as the movie. All right. On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed.
I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound;
a sound a friend had told me I'd never hear; the ringing bells of Santa's sleigh. There
is no Santa, my friend had insisted. But I knew he was wrong. Late that night, I did
hear sounds, though not of the ringing of bells. From outside came the sounds of hissing
steam and squeaking metal. I looked through my window and saw a train standing perfectly
still in front of my house. It was wrapped in an apron of steam. Snowflakes fell lightly
around it. A conductor stood at the open door of one of the cars. He took a large pocket
watch from his vest, then looked up at my window. I put on my slippers and robe. I tiptoed
downstairs and out the door. All aboard the conductor ran -- wait, let me try that again.
All aboard, the conductor cried out. I ran up to him. Well, he said, are you coming?
Where, I asked? Why, to the North Pole, of course, was his answer. This is the Polar
Express. I took his outstretched hand and he pulled me aboard. Look at all these kids,
Children: Whoa.
President Obama: The train was filled with other children all
in their pajamas and nightgowns. We sang Christmas carols and ate candy with nougat centers as
white as snow. We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars. Outside
the lights and towns and villages flickered in the distance. The Polar Express raised
northward. Soon there were no more lights to be seen. We traveled through cold, dark
forests where lean wolves roamed and white-tailed rabbits hid from our train as it thundered
through the quiet wilderness. We climbed mountains so high it seemed as if we would scrape the
moon. But the Polar Express never slowed down. Faster and faster we ran along, rolling over
peaks and through valleys like a car on a rollercoaster. Look at that.
Child: Wow.
President Obama: That would be a fun ride up there.
Child: Yes. Going down.
President Obama: Going down would be fun, wouldn't it? As long
as you stayed on the tracks. The mountains turned into hills. The hills to snow covered
plains. We crossed the barren desert of ice, the great polar ice cap. Lights appeared in
the distance. They looked like the lights of a strange ocean -- They looked like the
lights of a strange ocean liner sailing on a frozen sea. There, said the conductor, is
the North Pole. Look, shouted one of the children. The elves! Outside we saw hundreds of elves.
Look, you can see them down here.
Child: Whoa.
President Obama: Hundred of elves. As our train drew closer
to the center of the North Pole, we slowed to a crawl, so crowded was the street with
Santa's helpers. When the Polar Express could go no farther, we stopped, and the conductor
let us outside. Whoa, look at this. We passed through the crowd to the edge of a large open
circle. In front of us stood Santa's sleigh. The reindeer were excited. They pranced and
paced, ringing the silver sleigh bells that hung from their harnesses. It was a magical
sound like nothing I'd ever heard. Across the circle, the elves moved apart and Santa
appeared. The elves cheered wildly. They marched over to us, and pointing to me said, let's
have this fellow here. He jumped into his sleigh. The conductor handed me up. I sat
on Santa's knee and he asked, now, what would you like for Christmas? I knew that I could
have any gift I could imagine. But the thing I wanted most for Christmas was not inside
Santa's giant bag. What I wanted more than anything was one silver bell from Santa's
sleigh. When I asked, Santa smiled. Then he gave me a hug and told an elf to cut a bell
from a reindeer's harness. The elf tossed it up to Santa. He stood holding the bell
high above him and called out, the first gift of Christmas, ho, ho, ho. A clock struck midnight
as the elves roared their approval. Santa handed the bell to me and I put it in my bathrobe
pocket. The conductor helped me down from the sleigh. Santa shouted out the reindeer's
names and cracked his whip. His team charged forward and climbed into the air. Santa circled
once above us then disappeared in the cold, dark polar sky. As soon as we were back inside
the Polar Express, the other children asked to see the bell. I reached into my pocket
but the only thing I felt was a hole. I had lost the silver bell from Santa's sleigh.
Let's hurry outside and look for it, one of the children said. But the train gave a sudden
lurch and started moving. We were on our way home. Look, he's looking pretty upset. He
lost the bell.
Child: Santa's bell.
President Obama: Santa's bell. I mean, it's not just any bell.
Children: Yeah.
President Obama: Right. It broke my heart to lose the bell.
When the train reached my house, I sadly left the other children. I stood at my doorway
and waved good-bye. The conductor said something from the moving train, but I couldn't hear
him. What, I yelled out? He cupped his hand around his mouth. Merry Christmas, he shouted.
The Polar Express let out a loud blast from its whistle and sped away. On Christmas morning,
my little sister Sarah and I opened our presents. When it looked at if everything had been unwrapped,
Sarah found one last small box behind the tree. It had my name on it and inside was
the silver bell. There was a note. Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Fix that hole in
your pocket. Signed, Mr. C. I shook the bell. It made the most beautiful sound my sister
and I had ever heard. But my mother said, oh, that's too bad. Yes, she said to my father,
it's broken. When I had shaken the bell, my parents had not heard a sound. Interesting,
huh? At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell
silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its
sweet sound. Though I have grown up, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who
truly believe. The end.
President Obama: Yay.
The Polar Express. Great book.
Great book. Now, because you guys paid attention, I think
you got to have some cookies now. All right. We're going to pass these out.
If you're going to take the book. All right. You guys get your choice of Christmas
tree, maple leaf, gingerbread man or boat. Go ahead.
Going for the tree.
Pretty good? Pretty tasty?
Go ahead and take a bite.
I like their discipline. That's good.
Come on.
You're welcome.
Child: They good.
President Obama: Are they good?
They are pretty good.
Here you go.
It's hard to make up your mind, isn't it? You going to have one?
All right. You guys come over here.
I don't want you guys to miss out here.
Here you go, little man.
All right.
You're welcome.
Child: Thank you.
Child: Thank you.
President Obama: You're welcome.
You're welcome.
Child: Thank you.
Child: Thank you.
President Obama: All right. Everybody get one?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: All right. I'm going to leave the rest of
these here. I don't know who's going to get them. But I'll just leave these here.
Child: Me.
President Obama: So you guys are all out of school already?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: So how many people -- how many people are
all ready for Christmas, they got everything all ready, all set? Okay. Anybody want to
tell me what they're asking for Christmas from Santa? What are you going to get?
Child: An iPOD.
President Obama: iPOD, all right. Is that right? What kind
of music are you going to listen to on the iPOD?
Child: A lot.
President Obama: Like what kind?
Child: Rap music.
President Obama: Rap music; is that right? Okay. All right.
What are you going to get?
Child: An Apple.
President Obama: You want an apple?
Child: Like the Apple Touch, I want one that --
President Obama: Oh, is that like -- it's like an iPOD?
Child: No.
President Obama: It's not like an iPOD?
Child: It's a phone.
President Obama: It's a phone. It's like an iPhone?
Child: It's a Touch.
President Obama: It's a touch screen. Yes, what are you looking
Child: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
President Obama: I love that, Harry Potter books. Which one
is that?
Child: The last one.
President Obama: That's the last one.
Child: Yeah.
President Obama: So you got the first six already, you already
read them?
Child: Yes.
President Obama: It's really good, isn't it? I love that Harry
Potter. I sure do. Malia and I used to read that every night until we read through the
whole series; my daughter. All seven of them. So how about you?
Child: I would like the DSI.
President Obama: What's a DSI?
Child: It's like a disco game that you play.
President Obama: Okay. Does it have a bunch of different games
on there that you play, like Sims and all that stuff?
Child: Yes.
President Obama: All right. Sasha likes those, too, all right.
Child: A PSP.
President Obama: A PSP, that's another kind of game thing?
Children: (inaudible)
President Obama: Okay.
Children: Oh.
President Obama: How about you?
Child: I would like a flow TV and a DSI.
President Obama: Okay. What about you?
Child: PSP.
President Obama: PSP. Now, let me ask you a question here,
guys. Whatever happened to like asking for a bike, huh?
Child: I already have one.
President Obama: Everybody already has a bike. You prefer walking.
Child: I have three dirt bikes and I have a bike.
President Obama: You have three dirt bikes?
Child: Uh-huh. And I have --
President Obama: Good. What are you thinking?
Child: (inaudible)
President Obama: Okay. All right. Yeah.
Child: Cell phone.
President Obama: You want a cell phone. Who you going to call?
Child: Everybody.
President Obama: Who?
Child: My family, my friends.
President Obama: Your friends and family?
Child: Yeah.
President Obama: Uh-huh. What are you going to say to them?
Child: How are you doing?
President Obama: How are you doing? But don't you -- you're
seeing your family and friends all the time. Why do you need a cell phone?
Child: Because you can call them.
Child: Like on the weekends you can call them.
Child: I just want one.
President Obama: Well, can I say this? I think one thing that's
important to remember is that, you know, even though there's a lot of fun to Christmas,
you know, you got -- especially when it's snowy like this, you know, so it's pretty
outside, you got the Christmas tree, you got the Christmas cookies, you got presents, you
know, I think that the most important thing is just to remember why do we celebrate Christmas,
which is --
Children: I know!
President Obama: Do you know?
Child: The birth of baby Jesus.
President Obama: The birth of baby Jesus. And what he symbolizes
for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with
respect and so I just hope that spirit of giving that's so important to Christmas, I
hope all of you guys remember that as well. You know, it's not just about getting a gift,
but it's also doing something for other people.
Child: I know.
President Obama: Being nice to your mom and dad and grandma
and aunties and showing respect to people, that's really important, too. That's part
of the Christmas spirit, don't you think. Do you agree with me?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: You do? Do you have an interesting observation?
Go ahead.
Child: I know why we give gifts to other people.
President Obama: Why is that?
Child: Because the three wise men gave gifts to baby
President Obama: That's exactly right. But the three wise men,
the reason they -- uh-oh. I thought that was the cookies going down.
Child: Oh no, can't have that. Can’t have that.
President Obama: We couldn't have that. You know, the three
wise men, if you think about it, here these guys, they have all this money, they've got
all this wealth and power, and yet they took a long trip to a manger just to see a little
baby. And it just shows you that just because you're powerful or you're wealthy, that's
not what's important. What's important is the kind of spirit you have. So I hope everybody
has the spirit of kindness and thoughtfulness and everybody is really thinking about how
can they do for other people, treating them well, because that's really the spirit of
Christmas. Does everybody agree with that?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: I agree with that. Well, you guys all seem
like really sharp young people. And I'm very proud of you. And let me just ask you one
last question. Is everybody here working pretty hard in school?
Children: Yes.
President Obama: Okay. Because the thing that I want everybody
to remember, the most important message I can leave is you guys are -- have so much
potential that one of you could end up being president someday. But it's only going to
happen if you stay focused and you work hard in school. And you guys, you know, there's
nothing wrong with having fun and fooling around and playing sports and listening to
rap music and all that stuff. But I want you guys to read and hit the books and do your
math, because that's really what's going to determine how you do in the future. All right.
That's the most important thing you can do. All right. Okay. Here's what we're going to
do. I think that it's time for us to take a picture. So I want everybody in a quiet
way to come and surround me over here. All right. Whoa, whoa. Hold on. All right. Come
on. Come on, guys. Squeeze in here. Squeeze in. All right. Where's Pete? Pete, you got
us? Look at this guy over here. Look at that guy over there and everybody say cheese!
Children: Cheese!
President Obama: You got one more?
Child: Say smile.
Children: Cheese.
President Obama: All right. Merry Christmas, everybody.
Children: Merry Christmas.
President Obama: Merry Christmas.
Children: Merry Christmas.
President Obama: Merry Christmas.
Children: Merry Christmas.
President Obama: Yeah. Everybody applaud. Good job. All right.
I've got to leave now. I got to go do some work. I've got to go back and do some work.
But everybody says hi.
Speaker: You guys have a seat. Everybody have a seat.
All right, guys, I need everybody to have a seat. Have a seat. Get a seat, please. Sweetheart,
have a seat.
President Obama: Good to see you guys. Did I shake everybody's
Children: No.
President Obama: Okay. Good to see you.
That's my Harry Potter friend. All right, guys.
Speaker: Listen up, guys, I want everybody to have
a seat.
President Obama: What have I got?
Child: President Obama, thank you for coming to our
club and we -- and we would like to give you these T-shirts to your daughters. And would
you like to come back and visit us and would you -- will you come back or would you like
to play me in foosball?
President Obama: Foosball, are you a pretty good foosball player?
Child: Um-hmm.
President Obama: You know, I hate getting beat.
Child: I'll let you win.
President Obama: That's what I'm talking about. Thank you,
guys, these are wonderful.
Children: You're welcome.
President Obama: All right, everybody, I've got to get out
of here. Love you guys. See you later. See you guys later. See you later. You know, you're
going to have to ask your folks here, but there are plenty of them there, so we'll see.
Speaker: Have a seat. Have a seat.
President Obama: Good to see you guys. See you, man.
Child: See you, Mr. President.
President Obama: Probably not the last. All right. See you
guys later.