WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden helped light the national Christmas tree on Thursday while remembering those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and crediting the American people for their optimism.
Biden also paid tribute to the military, thanking them for their sacrifices.
“We are a great nation because of you the American people,” said Biden, joined on stage by his wife, First Lady Jill Biden. “You made me so optimistic. ”
It was the first time Biden had participated in the nearly 100-year-old tradition in the nation’s capital. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff have joined the Bidens.
Singer-actor LL Cool J hosted the program, which included performances by Billy Porter, Chris Stapleton, HER, Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LaBelle and the Howard University Gospel Choir.
The evergreen tree on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, was illuminated with red and white lights. It is surrounded by smaller trees representing every state and territory of the United States and the District of Columbia. Students from across the country made the ornaments used to decorate the trees.
The first national lighting of the Christmas tree took place on Christmas Eve in 1923.
Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press