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TOMMY'S TAKE/Not Crashing The White House for its Holiday Tour

Tommy McFly
By Tommy McFly
Posted on Dec 09,2009
Filed Under News , Community,
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Photo by FLICKR/84872771@N00/4037128007/in/pool-1600penn<br /> <br />The clean-up after the Salahis was well in progress after I presented my Local Kicks credentials at the East Gate for a White House Holiday Tour.
Photo by FLICKR/84872771@N00/4037128007/in/pool-1600penn
The clean-up after the Salahis was well in progress after I presented my
Local Kicks credentials at the East Gate for a White House Holiday Tour.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - On Tuesday, it was an honor for Local Kicks to be invited. . .ACTUALLY INVITED. . .unlike some other people  to the White House for a first hand look at its amazing holiday display at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  
 
We entered through the 15th Street Gate, past about five sets of security ("That's M-c-F-L-Y, of Local K-I-C-K-S") and took what my friend jokingly deemed the "Salahi Tour."  
 

Photo by FLICKR/crespoluigi/3097034608/<br /> <br />The fresh smell of Christmas came upon me while entering the magnificent halls of The White House, where this year's theme was
Photo by FLICKR/crespoluigi/3097034608/
The fresh smell of Christmas came upon me
while entering the magnificent halls of The
White House, where this year's theme was
"Reflect, Rejoice and Renew."

The fresh smell of Christmas came upon me while entering the magnificent halls of The White House, where this year's theme was "Reflect, Rejoice and Renew."  
 
From the Wish Tree, where one can leave an "ask" for "ObamaClaus," I suppose, to the Green and Red rooms decorated floor to ceiling, and the majestic Blue Room whose tree is decorated with "Reused" ornaments.
 
The First Lady Michelle Obama explained to us the decor of the Blue Room and how this year they decided to do something just a little different.  "We took about 800 ornaments left over from previous administrations, we sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country, and asked them to decorate them to pay tribute to a favorite local landmark and then send them back to us for display here at the White House."
 
Yes, that was Martha Stewart, still in-town from the Kennedy Center Honors the night befor, slipping through a non-public entrance and getting to cross the velvet ropes to get an up-close look. I wonder if she thought it was all a "Good Thing?"
 
"Welcome to the White House and Happy Holidays!" Mrs. Obama said during the press tour.  "Thanks to all of you for joining us here today as we preview how we will mark the holidays here at the White House."

Mrs. Obama said she's actually been planning this day, and the holiday season, since the summer.  

"And our starting point was a very simple idea:  that we include as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as we can."

She thanked the East Wing and Residence staff, and 92 volunteers from 24 states who spent more than 3,400 hours decorating over the last several days. "We have ornaments hanging on the tree behind me throughout the White House and everywhere else that include the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Kennedy Center -- Space Center, as well as some less known places like Davy Crockett Park in Tennessee, Pompey's Pillar in Billings, Montana and one of my favorites, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago."

Photo by FLICKR/afagen/3159129651/<br /> <br />From the Wish Tree, where one can leave an
Photo by FLICKR/afagen/3159129651/
From the Wish Tree, where one can leave an
"ask" for "ObamaClaus," I suppose, to the
Green and Red rooms decorated floor
to ceiling, and the majestic Blue Room
whose tree is decorated with "Reused"
ornaments.

Also on display was one of the favorite traditions at the White House, a gingerbread masterpiece by her "brilliant chef" Bill Yosses and his team.

This year the Obamas included something a little bit different.  In addition to the gingerbread White House they also had the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn, a shadow box that lets you look into the gingerbread White House and view the State Dining Room.  "And I just saw there's also a little Bo replica," she said. "So that's a new addition."

Mrs. Obama said that the night before they have opened the doors to the first of more than 50,000 visitors who will come to the White House during this holiday season. "It's safe to say that everyone was really impressed....And I heard you all partying last night,"she laughed.

"You had a great time."

For many people, a visit to the White House has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it has been made even more magical because of all of the hard work of many volunteers, including Local Kicks contributor Laura Dowling of Old Town, who two weeks ago was unofficially named the White House Florist (an official White House announcement is pending, Dowling tells us).

"So I want to take just a moment again to thank all of our volunteers who spent so much time making this White House such a special treat, and we hope you had as good a time as it sounded like you had last night," Mrs. Obama said. "Their work has really transformed the White House, which is, as we always say, the People's House, and we're so grateful for everything that you've done to make this really a special treat for all of us."

Photo by FLICKR//jfholloway/2087922147/<br /> <br />Ornaments in the East Room. <br />
Photo by FLICKR//jfholloway/2087922147/
Ornaments in the East Room.

And finally, Mrs. Obamaa took a moment to talk about why they chose this year's theme,  "Reflect, Rejoice and Renew."

"For the Obama family, Christmas and the New Year has always been a time to reflect on our many blessings, to rejoice in the pleasure of spending time with our family and our friends, and to renew our commitment to one another and to the causes that we believe in.  And I wanted to continue that part of the tradition during our first holiday season here at the White House."

"This year has been filled with an infinite number of blessings for me and my family," she added.  "And I say this all the time, but every day I am honored to be this nation's First Lady.  And from the day that my family arrived here, I have wanted the American people to share in our journey, to share in the history and the excitement that makes the White House such a special landmark in this nation."

"That's why we've worked so hard throughout this year to invite as many people as possible to events here at the White House," she said.
"We've tried to showcase talents and contributions of our artists and our inventors, of students and masters, of exalted heroes and ordinary citizens of every age and every background.  The idea has been to create an environment where every story and every voice is welcome in the White House, and for all of us to rejoice in their accomplishments and to celebrate their contributions to the life of this nation."

Mrs. Obama added, "I know many people approach the holidays in the same way in their own lives, and that at this time of year for so many people, they are looking for opportunities to give thanks and to give back.  And we're doing the same thing here at the White House.  We're focusing our efforts this year on two very important causes -- we're supporting local food banks, and the Toys for Tots program."

Photo by FLICKR/crespoluigi/3097036238/<br /> <br />The Seat of Power, especially at Christmas time. <br />
Photo by FLICKR/crespoluigi/3097036238/
The Seat of Power, especially at Christmas
time.

On a serious note, she said, hunger is on the rise here in America, hitting its highest levels in nearly 15 years.  A recent report released by the USDA reveals that in 2008, an estimated 1.1 million children were living in households that experienced hunger multiple times over this year.  "And, of course, no child in the United States of America should ever go to bed hungry, and no family in this country should have to worry that they won't have food on the table, not just during the holidays, but every day."

To combat hunger this winter, in coordination with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Obamas are launching the United We Serve "Feed a Neighbor" initiative.

"This is a program that will provide all Americans with resources to help combat hunger in their own communities," she said. "This initiative is a great way for you, for all Americans, along with their friends and families, to give back not just during the holidays, but throughout the year.  By going to serve.gov, this program will connect Americans to opportunities like delivering meals to homebound seniors, offering professional skills at a food pantry, or planting a community garden and sharing produce with neighbors."

The Obamas are also supporting the Toys for Tots program.  "Over the past year, I've had the privilege of visiting servicemen and women, and their families, all across this country, and have spent much of my time in the White House working to ensure that we properly honor their service," she said.  "And each time I visit a base or meet with members of our Armed Forces and veterans, I'm struck not just by the extraordinary sacrifices they and their family make to serve our country, but by all they do to help others right here at home in their own communities."

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is a great example of how servicemen and women are doing even more than just serving the men in uniform.  For more than 62 years, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children.  In 2008, the program was active in 657 communities and in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Marines and volunteers distributed more than 16.2 million toys that year to 7.6 million children.  

Photo by FLICKR/jfholloway/2088711214/in/photostream/<br /> <br />The Red Room.<br />
Photo by FLICKR/jfholloway/2088711214/in/
photostream/

The Red Room.

"That was one of their best years ever," Mrs. Obama said. "So I'm thrilled this year that the White House staff is going to be supporting these efforts with a toy drive to help make the holidays a little brighter for children in the surrounding communities."

The Toys for Tots headquarters is located outside of Marine Corps base Quantico. "I look forward to visiting there later this month to personally deliver the toys that we collect here at the White House," Mrs. Obama said. "So these are just two important ways that we'll be marking the holidays here at the White House.  So the President and I are urging everyone to join us in these efforts, or to find some way to give back some time during this holiday season."

Check out Tommy's virtual tour slide show of The White House Holiday Open House here:



Photo by FLICKR/photos/johnsonderman/2124870556/<br /> <br />The White House decorations, a birds' eye view. <br />
Photo by FLICKR/photos/johnsonderman
/2124870556/

The White House decorations, a birds'
eye view.






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