HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to embrace the spirit of Christmas by volunteering at a soup kitchen, buying gifts for kids in need, or organizing food and clothing drives.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says the values Jesus taught can spur Americans of all faiths to be better parents, friends, neighbors and citizens.
First lady Michelle Obama says the nation should show gratitude by supporting military members and their families.
The Obamas recorded the Christmas message in Washington before leaving Friday for their annual vacation in Hawaii.
Watch the weekly address above, or read the full text below (via The White House):
THE PRESIDENT: Hello everybody, and happy holidays.
THE FIRST LADY: We know how busy this time of year is for everyone, so we’re not going to take much of your time. But we did want to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.
THE PRESIDENT: This is a season for millions of Americans to be together with family, to continue long-held holiday traditions, and to show our gratitude to those we love. And along the way, some of us might even watch a little basketball or eat some Christmas cookies, too.
THE FIRST LADY: Here at the White House, over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit us and look at our holiday decorations.
This year’s theme was “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”
And in every room of the house, we tried to tell a story about who we are as Americans and how we celebrate the holidays together.
And we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know – the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans, and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays. But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family. They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened. So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.
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 at any time in the last decade.
THE FIRST LADY: And that’s something we all can be thankful for.
And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much.
And that’s why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative – to rally all Americans to support our military families in ways large and small.
And again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s the same spirit of giving that connects all of us during the holidays. So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors. For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. And for all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens.
THE FIRST LADY: So as we look to the New Year, let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up.
THE PRESIDENT: So Merry Christmas, everyone. And from the two of us, as well as Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo…
THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.
THE PRESIDENT: We wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season.
THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays everybody, and God bless.