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President and Laura Bush with Children at White House

Aired December 10, 2001 - 10:37   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The president and Mrs. Bush reading to children.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Nice to see you all. This is the president. I'm Mrs. Bush. Nice to meet you all. Today, we're so excited to be able to read some fun stories that have to do with the holidays, and I'm so glad that you all got to come here to the White House to see how pretty it's decorated.

Do you like all the snow trees?


L. BUSH: This is called, "If You Take A Mouse To The Movies." Have you seen these other books by this same author? "If You Give A Pig A Pancake"? Have you seen that one?


L. BUSH: Have you seen it? This is called, "If You Talk A Mouse To The Movies," and guess what he's going to want at the movies?

CHILDREN: Popcorn.

L. BUSH: Popcorn. Exactly. "If You Take A Mouse To The Movies." Can you see him here with his little tiny clothes?


L. BUSH: "If you take a mouse to the movies," -- and if you'll look, you can see he's sitting on the hood of a little sweatshirt. Can you see him back there?


L. BUSH: What's he going to want?

CHILDREN: Some popcorn?

L. BUSH: He'll ask you for some popcorn. And when you give him the popcorn, what will he think about because it's Christmas? Can anybody guess? What? CHILDREN: (OFF-MIKE)

L. BUSH: He'll think about stringing the popcorn to put it on his Christmas tree.

L. BUSH: "He'll want to string it together. Then he'll want to hang it on the Christmas tree. So what will you have to go do?"

CHILDREN: Get a Christmas tree.

L. BUSH: Get a Christmas tree, of course.

G. BUSH: Very good.

L. BUSH: "So then you'll have to go buy him one. And on the way home, you'll see a snowman in your neighbor's yard. And so then he'll want to do what?"

CHILDREN: Build a snowman.

L. BUSH: Build a snowman.

"Then what will he need for a snowman? A carrot for his nose."


"When he's all finished he decide to build a fort." Have you ever built a snow fort?

What's he going to do after he builds a snow fort? Can you guess?


L. BUSH: Throw what? "Then he'll want to make some snowballs and have a snowball fight."

Can you see him way up here at the top of the snow fort? He made a lot of snowballs, didn't he?

Then after that, what will he want -- after the snowball fight? Can you guess? No, then he's going to be what? Cold.

"Playing outside will make him cold, and so he'll want to go inside and curl up on the couch. And then what will he ask you for? A blanket."

See his clothes hanging up on the light to dry?

"So then you'll give him a blanket. Once he's nice and cozy, he'll want to listen to Christmas carols. You'll have to find some on the radio."

He'll probably want to do what? Sing along. That's right.

Have you been singing along to any Christmas carols? L. BUSH: "The carols will remind him of his Christmas tree, so he'll want to make ornaments. Then what's he going to need to make ornaments?"


L. BUSH: "Glue and paper. And then what will he want?" What would you want if you were making ornaments and you already had glue and paper? Can you guess.

CHILDREN: Glitter.

L. BUSH: Glitter.

G. BUSH: Yes. Very good.

L. BUSH: That's right. He'll want glitter.

"So when the ornaments are all done, what will he do?"

CHILDREN: Decorate the tree.

L. BUSH: That's right. Decorate the Christmas tree. And you're going to love the way he gets to decorate the Christmas tree.

Look. He put all the ornaments on the little boy's head. Do you think that's funny?


L. BUSH: "Then he'll stand back and look at the tree. And when he does, he's going to discover that his popcorn string is missing." It doesn't have his popcorn string, does it? So what will he want now?

CHILDREN: The popcorn string.

L. BUSH: Yes. Look at him down here with this little bitty hat.

"So then he'll want to make another popcorn string, and he'll ask you for some...

CHILDREN: Popcorn.

L. BUSH: ... popcorn. "And chances are, when you give him the popcorn, what will it remind him of?" CHILDREN: The movies.

L. BUSH: The movies.

And so then, what will he want to do?

CHILDREN: Go back to the movies.

L. BUSH: Go back to the movies. He'll want you to take him to the movies.

Did you like that book?


L. BUSH: This book is written by a woman named Laura Numeroff, but the pictures that illustrate or the person who draws the picture is named Felicia Bond, and she's from Austin, Texas, which is where we lived before. Do you like these pictures?


HEMMER: Not to interrupt the first couple there in the East Room of the White House, but just to make mention of the kids that are gathered there, 50 first-graders from the Hoffman Boston Elementary School, in nearby Arlington, less than mile from pentagon. The flight that hit the Pentagon flew directly over the school. The children at the time were playing outside. They heard the crash. They saw the smoke. And the principal's husband, Robert Himel (ph), worked at the Pentagon. He was killed in that blast. A special gathering today at the White House for the Annual Children's Story Hour.

We'll dip back in now.


G. BUSH: Is that all right?


G. BUSH: OK. I might not be able to read without my glasses. Are you ready?


G. BUSH: "Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a...

CHILDREN: ... mouse.

G. BUSH: "... mouse. And mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

"When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window, I flew like a flash to open the shutters and threw up the sash."

Looking out the window, wasn't he?

"The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

L. BUSH: Reindeer.

G. BUSH: "With a little ole driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick."

L. BUSH: St. Nick.

G. BUSH: That's a different name for...


G. BUSH: ... Santa.

Those are reindeer. That's St. Nick or...

CHILDREN: Santa Claus.

G. BUSH: Santa Claus. That's exactly right.

So here he is, looking out the window, right?

"More rapid than eagles his coursers they came and he whistled and shouted and called them by name. Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen."

G. BUSH: "To the top of the porch. To the top of the wall. Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all."

So Santa was calling to the reindeer. And they all had names, didn't they? Pretty interesting names.

"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fall, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. So up to the housetop, the courses they flew with a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas, too."

He went up to the top of the roof. Why?


G. BUSH: That's exactly right.

"And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound."

Came right down the chimney. That's hard to do, isn't it?


G. BUSH: "He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot."

Why were they dirty?


G. BUSH: Very good. He came down the chimney. That's right.

"A bundle of toys he had slung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack."

Who was looking at him? Who was watching everything he did? CHILDREN: The cat.

G. BUSH: The kitty.

"His eyes, how they twinkled. His dimples, how merry. His cheeks were like roses. His nose like a cherry."

If his nose was like a cherry, what color was his nose? CHILDREN: Red.

G. BUSH: Very good.

"His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard on his chin was as white as the...


G. BUSH: "... snow. He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of...


G. BUSH: "jelly.

"He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.

"A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread."

In other words, he was a cheery fellow, so he wasn't afraid of Santa.

You're not afraid of Santa?


G. BUSH: That's good.

"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work and filled all the stockings then turned with a jerk. And laying a finger aside of his nose and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose (inaudible) to his sleigh. To his team, gave a whistle. And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

"But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight: Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night. The end."


G. BUSH: Now, Laura and I will be glad to answer any questions you might have about the White House or Christmas.

Yes, ma'am?

CHILDREN: (OFF-MIKE) G. BUSH: You love the rooms. This really isn't our house, you know. We're just here for a period of time. This is the people's house. And so we're sure glad to welcome you.

Yes, sir?

CHILDREN: I saw you on TV.

G. BUSH: You saw me on TV?


G. BUSH: That what happens when you're the president.


Anybody hoping for their two front teeth for Christmas?


L. BUSH: When you're in the first grade, that happens, doesn't it?

CHILDREN: (OFF-MIKE) L. BUSH: You've got yours.


G. BUSH: You do, too. That's good. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Yes, sir?

CHILDREN: Do you live here?

G. BUSH: I live here. We do. Laura and I live here and so does two dogs and a cat.


G. BUSH: Dogs, Barney and Spot. I think they're sleeping right now some where. They're taking their morning nap. They're waiting for Santa to come down the chimney, too.


G. BUSH: You want to see the dogs napping? You want to tip-toe in and see them?

L. BUSH: Maybe we can get them to come downstairs in a minute when you all have your punch.

G. BUSH: We'll see.

Yes, ma'am?

CHILDREN: (OFF-MIKE) L. BUSH: You like the snow, the reindeer.

G. BUSH: Yes, sir? Have you got a question or something you want to say?


G. BUSH: Yes. Isn't it beautiful. It's a beautiful house, the White House. That's very good.

Let's see, who hasn't asked a question? Have you asked a question?

L. BUSH: You haven't asked one yet, have you?

G. BUSH: Do you have something to say?

QUESTION: The rooms are beautiful.

G. BUSH: Yes, the rooms are beautiful, aren't they, especially decorated. And one of the things Laura and I love about the rooms are the great big trees with snow all over them. Is it real snow on the trees, do you think?


G. BUSH: Why? What would happen if they put snow on the trees?

CHILDREN: It would melt.

G. BUSH: It would. There'd be water everywhere. So they put fake snow on, but it looks beautiful. Well, listen...

L. BUSH: This child as a question.

G. BUSH: Where? Way back there in the back?

L. BUSH: No, right here in the green shirt.

G. BUSH: Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a basketball court?

G. BUSH: We do have a basketball court. I don't play on it very often because I'm a little old these days.

Do you have one?

This child there in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have any daughters? L. BUSH: We have twin daughters. We have twin daughters who are 20 years old. They're in college. Are all of you going to go to college?


L. BUSH: Yes.

G. BUSH: And you know one of the most important things is when you say yes to that, it's a very good goal to have, but you've got to practice your reading. So when your teachers say, "Let's practice reading," you ought to say, "Yes, ma'am, I can't wait to practice reading." And you need to practice at home, too.

L. BUSH: Does everybody read at home a little bit every day?


L. BUSH: Yes. Well, we are going to give you these books for your class.

G. BUSH: And it's really important to practice reading, and when you get older, it's important to practice reading more than you watch TV.

QUESTION: Do you like being the president?

G. BUSH: I do like being the president. It's a great honor to be the president.

Well, listen, thank you all for coming. Can I interest anybody in some punch and cookies?


G. BUSH: OK. So if everybody would quietly stand up...

L. BUSH: We'll go into the dining room.

G. BUSH: ... we'll go into the dining room.

First of all, I'll tell you what let's do. Why don't you all turn around and give everybody a wave?

Ready? On three. One, two, three, give them a wave. Merry Christmas.

CHILDREN: Merry Christmas.

L. BUSH: Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.

BUSH: Thanks for coming.


L. BUSH: Well, we have a Scottish Terrier and a Springer Spaniel; Barney and spot.

HEMMER: Nice event from the East Room of the White House there, and a group of first-graders, 50 first graders there gathered for the children's story session there at the White House, children with a special connection to the events of 9/11. They were attending an elementary school in Arlington, Virginia just about a mile from the Pentagon when that plane that hit the Pentagon flew over the school and the kids were outside at the time. The Annual Childrens' Story Hour from the White House, an annual event with special significance in meaning, certainly this year.




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