Military Kids Attend White House Holiday Party

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2007 - President Bush told 200 military children -- about half of whom had a deployed parent -- gathered in the East Room of the White House for a holiday party that he had two jobs today.

"One is to introduce you to my wife, Laura," he said. "Two is to tell you how much we admire your moms and dads (and) how much we appreciate their service to our country."

First lady Laura Bush echoed the president's sentiments and officially began the annual program with a brief history lesson.

"The theme (for the White House's holiday decorations) is, 'Our National Parks,'" she said presenting them with a pop quiz. "Have you ever been in a national park?"

As the children offered mixed responses and the adults in the room chuckled, she gave them the answer to the trick question.

"Guess what? You're in one right now," she told them, noting that there are 25 national parks in Washington.

A highlight of the holiday event came from Ford's Theatre, another of those national parks. Actors from Ford's Theatre presented a portion of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The show is currently running at the Shakespeare Theater.

The presentation was about more than entertaining the children, however. "I think we're going to learn a good lesson when we watch it about how to keep Christmas in our heart all year long," Laura Bush said in welcoming the Ford's Theatre Society and the show's cast.

The musical adaptation of the holiday classic featuring Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim kept the children nearly silent for the next 20 minutes. One young man took advantage of his catbird seat between the Bushes to ask the couple questions throughout the production, which featured the Ghost of Christmas Present and plenty of music.

At the conclusion of the program, the first lady welcomed Mary A. Bomar, director of the National Park Service, who had a special treat for the kids.

"Today we're going to make you Junior Rangers," she told the children. "We're going to take the pledge to be future junior rangers of the National Park."

Mrs. Bush wrapped up the event with wishes for a Merry Christmas and a few stops to talk with children as she exited the room.

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