MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello, everyone! (Applause.) Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Where are my children? Merry Christmas! Are you guys excited that in a couple of weeks, a few weeks it’s going to be Christmas, and you’re going to be out of school, and Santa is coming? Come on, don’t act like you’re not losing your minds. I know you are. (Laughter.) They are in my household.
It’s always a pleasure to be with you guys. I have to say, this visit is always one of the highlights of the holiday season for me because it’s always a pleasure to be here with you guys again.
And I’m not going to talk for long, because I’m here to actually work, to sort toys. And I’ve got some helpers over there, and maybe a few of you will join in -- except for that one that’s asleep. (Laughter.) That little one. He’ll wake up before I go. I promise, he’ll be up. (Laughter.) But we’re going to get some work done sorting some toys.
But first I want to thank a few people. Of course I want to thank Lieutenant General Osman, not just for that wonderful, gracious introduction, but the truth is that his leadership is really what makes Toys for Tots so successful. He is an amazing man, and he’s a very easy person to follow. I love working with him, so I want to thank him.
I also want to thank your base Vice Commander, Colonel Peters, as well as Lieutenant Colonel Johnson and Gunnery Sergeant Givans, who are helping and taking the lead to run the Toys for Tots drive here in the Capital Region.
And I want to recognize all of the outstanding folks from our White House Communications Agency -- we call them our WHCA folks. Let’s hear it for WHCA! (Applause.) They keep us connected. Because of you, I can talk to my husband when he travels around the world. Thank you for that. And thank you for bringing your families. Hopefully we got a few family members here. You guys, we really love you all, and this is a great way to get a chance to see you during the holidays.
And of course, I want to thank all of our Marines from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and your incredible families. Let’s hear it! Woo! (Applause.)
SERVICEMEMBERS: Ooh ooh!
MRS. OBAMA: I love it. Do that again.
MRS. OBAMA: That’s so good, so good.
Once again, through Toys for Tots, you all are getting it done, and you’re doing it by spending countless hours making the holidays so much brighter for so many children across the country. And it takes a lot of hard work to get this done. You spend months, sometimes, out in the cold, collecting all the toys, those donation boxes. You spend days and nights sorting all the toys. I mean, I come here for a couple of hours, but you guys are doing this day after day for weeks at a time. You handle the mind-boggling logistics of getting all these toys to children across this country.
This is clearly a serious operation, which is why our Marines are in charge. Because working hard and being organized is what’s required to reach your goals year after year. And Lieutenant General Osman talked about it. In fact, since Toys for Tots started, as he mentioned, you all have distributed more than 490 million toys to over 200 million children in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Let’s just stop for a moment and think about that. (Applause.)
What an amazing impact you all have had over these years. And think about what that means -- the millions of moments of joy and gratitude that you all are responsible for because of the work you do. That moment that little girl unwraps her first train set maybe, or a teenager puts on his first collared shirt or gets that computer game he’s always wanted but never thought he would get. Or the struggling single parent that breathes a sigh of relief because there will be presents under the tree after all.
Every year, the truth is no matter what is going on in their lives, these Marines and their families, they make millions of Christmas wishes come true. And more than anything else, it’s that kind of commitment to giving back, that spirit of service that truly characterizes our men and women in uniform and their families, not just around the holidays but every single day of the year. I have seen this again and again as I’ve visited military bases and communities across this country and around the world. You want to know why I love Toys for Tots? Because I also love our men and women in uniform, and I respect the work that you do. And I do everything I can to support it.
I’ve met folks in uniform who are stationed overseas, far away from their own kids, but they find the time to spend their free time volunteering with kids in a local school where they are, showing by their example what America really stands for. I’ve seen military spouses who are juggling the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families, and also managing those constant moves from base to base every couple of years, but they still find time to run the Family Readiness Groups, or to volunteer at a church.
Shoot, I’ve met our amazing military kids, so many of them who have to start all over again every couple of years at a new school, but they still manage to get straight A’s, and they still find time to help out at home when their mom or dad is deployed.
See, our men and women in uniform and their families are from every corner of this country. They’re from all backgrounds, all walks of life. But every day, day after day, they come together for a cause greater than themselves. So really, with the service of our Marines, your service to this country, you all remind us what it means to be part of our great American story.
And during these challenging times, you remind us what makes this country strong. And it is our diversity. It is our generosity. It’s our willingness to sacrifice on behalf of folks we may never meet, but who we know are our brothers and our sisters nonetheless. See, with your courage and your patriotism, you remind us that what binds us together as Americans is so much more important than our differences.
And all Americans should be inspired by the example you all set. All of us should follow your lead. We should all be reaching out to one another and showing compassion for those who struggle, even if they’re different from us –- in fact, especially if they’re different from us. And we should all be doing our part to give back in our communities through programs like Toys for Tots.
And it’s not too late to pitch in. So anybody who’s watching, one of the reasons I do this is because -- it’s not too late. We still need lots of toys, lots of people to step up and do what they can. And people can still go to Toys for Tots’ website. You can give online or you can find the nearest drop-off center to leave some toys for kids in need. One of the things I point out -- I try to push that every year, we try to make sure that kids get something for teenagers, because a lot of times we like to buy the cute little dolls and the things that are really sweet, and we have to remember there are kids 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 who still need to have something under the tree. So let’s not forget our teenagers.
That’s what we do at the White House every year. And because our staff steps up every year, today, we’ve arrived with a bunch of toys, cars full of toys for those -- from our team who have contributed.
Once again, we were all inspired by your example this holiday season. And we know that for all of you -- all of our Marines, our families, our WHCA staff, our team -- every day in every season is an opportunity to give more than you receive. It’s an opportunity to sacrifice on behalf of others.
So today, on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to once again thank you all for your extraordinary service to our communities and to our country. You all make us proud every single day. And from everyone at the White House, and from everyone in my family, we wish you all a very happy holiday season and a happy and very healthy New Year. All right?
So let’s get to work! Let’s sort some toys! (Applause.)