HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama spent a quiet Christmas morning singing carols and opening present with his wife and daughters as the first family offered their gratitude to military members serving in the U.S. and abroad during holiday season.
In a recorded Christmas message released Wednesday, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama reflected on the lessons they said their family draws from the birth and life of Jesus. The president urged Americans to carry forward those lessons by volunteering at a soup kitchen, buying gifts for kids in need, or organizing food and clothing drives.
"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," he said.
In the afternoon the president planned to visit U.S. troops and their families at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, where he often golfs during his annual stay in Oahu, the White House said.
Before Christmas Eve dinner with friends and relatives on Tuesday, Obama called troops from each branch of the military to extend his gratitude, the White House said. Among the troops he called were those wounded over the weekend during a mission to evacuate Americans from South Sudan. Four troops were injured in that effort, but the White House has said they are in stable condition.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also offered his holiday wishes to troops by phone, calling military members stationed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. And Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where they visited patients and families. The hospital treats many military members wounded in war.
In the weekly radio and Internet address, Mrs. Obama said now that more troops are home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation must find new ways to give back. "It's our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much," she said.
In the Republican address, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho said America's most prized gifts include freedom and worship. He thanked the military for defending U.S. freedoms.
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