POTUS Weekly Column – Obama meets with tech company CEOs over surveillance, celebrates the holidays in Hawaii


POTUS Column Photo LabeledDecember 23, 2013
Lauren Staehle
News Writer

The holiday season is as hectic and anticipatory for the president and his family as it is for millions of others. Service projects are a large part of the First Family’s holiday agenda, and this year’s focus was on children — from those in need to those whom we have lost. At the end of the week, the First Family would be off to Hawaii for a much needed break and a dose of quiet family time.

The week began on a solemn note as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama marked the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting with a candle-lighting memorial on Saturday. Twenty-six candles were lit — one for each victim of the shooting — and then a moment of silence followed.

While Americans across the country remembered the children who lost their lives in Newtown, Sunday’s events were a reminder that the season of giving is upon us, and that helping children who are struggling today can help to ease the pain. The First Family traveled to the National Building Museum on Sunday evening to attend the annual “Christmas in Washington” concert, which benefits the Children’s National Medical Center. Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Sasha and Malia all posed for a picture with five children who were patients at Children’s Medical Center. The young kids were dressed in elf costumes, which garnered smiles from the First Family. “Is it kinda hard to walk in those shoes?” President Obama joked about the pointy-toed elves. In his remarks, Obama stated: “This celebration benefits the Children’s National Medical Center, and all the children whose lives they touch and save, including all the little elves who are here tonight.”

On Tuesday, President Obama hosted a meeting with technology company CEOs. Among the attendees was a Netflix executive, to whom the President asked: “I’m just wondering if you brought advance copies of House of Cards?” The comment received a laugh, and Obama added in reference to the show: “I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient.” The meeting focused on government surveillance issues, and technology companies’ input on current operations. Following the meeting, the companies issued a joint statement: “We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week, and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.”

The president and First Lady teamed up on Wednesday for a meeting with eight moms from various regions across the country in order to discuss their experiences with the Affordable Care Act, and how moms can play a role in encouraging young adults to sign up for health insurance. Following the meeting, President Obama remarked, “Michelle and I just had a wonderful conversation with this group of moms who have been doing wonderful work out there [and]telling their personal stories…It reminds me at least of why we’ve been fighting so hard to get this done.”

On Thursday, President Obama helped tidy things up at the White House before the family’s trip to Hawaii on Friday, and the First Lady spoke at the Toys for Tots Service Project at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. She celebrated the accomplishments of volunteers and coordinators of the Toys for Tots program who were able to collect items for needy families. “I want to thank all of you and all of the volunteers and donors for Toys for Tots running year after year,” she said. “One thing I always say is that I don’t know if people realize everything it takes to make this happen — the thousands of hours that go into making this drive possible.  I think people just see the nice commercials, they donate a toy, and they think magically it just happens. But the truth is that you all spend hours manning those donation boxes in the freezing cold, you then spend hundreds of hours sorting those toys by age so that it makes it easier for those toys to get to the kids that need them.  And then you do the work of actually getting those toys out there.  It is a herculean task, and you all do it with grace and poise and efficiency, just like the Marines.  So it’s good that you all are handling this.”

Friday was the First Family’s departure to Hawaii where they enjoy their annual holiday celebration with other members of the Obama family. President Obama, the First Lady, Sasha, Malia, First Mother-in-law Marian Robinson and First Dogs Sunny and Bo boarded Air Force One for the trip to Honolulu. The family will enjoy a quiet vacation with no scheduled appearances or events for the president, and then return to D.C. on January 5th.  Happy Holidays.


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