After the big snow, Obama reads from 'The Polar Express' at Boys & Girls Club
By Garance Franke-Ruta
President Obama swung by the Richard England Clubhouse and Community Center in Northeast Washington Monday to deliver cookies and holiday cheer and to read aloud from award-winning children's Christmas tale "The Polar Express."
The president spent about 25 minutes at the facility, a Boys & Girls Club, according to a pool report. He arrived with cookies in the shape of the first dog, Bo; gingerbread men; maple leaves and Christmas trees, which were presented to the 27 children.
The president, who frequently delivers a values message when interacting with children, asked the clubhouse members what they wanted for Christmas and exhorted them to remember that the holiday is about more than gifts.
More, from Margaret Talev's (Margaret Talev McClatchy Newspapers) pool report, below:
Upon arrival, President Obama playfully asks kids, "Have you guys been good?" YES! they answer in unison, sing-songy. "Do you think you deserve cookies?" YES! "You sure, now?" YES!
POTUS was not wearing a Santa costume; just a suit and tie as earlier in the day.
Several of the kids already knew "Polar Express" in book or movie format. POTUS' inflection and ad-libbing suggested that of an experienced bedtime-story-reading parent. (He even got into character during one passage where Santa says, "Ho, ho, ho" though POTUS' imitation sounded more like "Huh, huh, huh.") POTUS did not flinch when a sign fell off the wall and landed on the floor a couple feet behind him.
Later he told the kids he and his older daughter, Malia, had read all the "Harry Potter" books together.
He asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas but seemed surprised by their expensive and high-tech tastes, including iPods, cell phones and video games.
"Whatever happened to, like, asking for a bike?" POTUS asked. "EverYbody has a bike," one informed him and others agreed.
In another exchange, he asked a kid who wants a cell phone, "Who you gonna call?" Kid: "Everyone." POTUS: "Like who?"
Later, one kid says Christmas celebrates "the birth of Baby Jesus" and POTUS said it also represents "the possibility of peace" and people treating one another respectfully. "It's not just about getting a gift."
They talked about the Three Wise Men, and how despite their status they came to a manger to pay respects to a baby.
POTUS tells kids to be kind to others and that "what's important is the kind of spirit you have."
Your pooler would note for those of you who haven't seen the video yet that the children were all over POTUS, tugging on his arms, making small talk, trying to get him to stay. "I gotta leave now, I gotta go do some work," he apologized to one girl.
The kids also were very respectful, saying "thank you" and even "thank you, Mr. President" as he stooped over them to pass around the cookies. "Go on and take a bite!" he prodded. He also did his standard speech on study your reading and math and you might be president.
He seemed to be enjoying himself very much.
At the end, Niko Letterbough, 7, gave him T-shirts for his daughters on behalf of the group, and asked if he'd come back and if he'd play him at Foosball.
"You know, I hate getting beat," POTUS told him."
"I'll let ya win," Niko said, and they fist-bumped. POTUS: "That's what I'm talking about."
Web Politics Editor
December 21, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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