December 27, 2000
When I was a child, we decorated our family tree on Christmas Eve. With only one to decorate, we could afford to wait until the last minute. So, it was a surprise when the Chief Usher and the Social Secretary came to me shortly after my husband's first inauguration to give me the news that it was time to begin planning for Christmas.
Christmas in the White House is magical. There are dozens of trees, dozens of parties and thousands of guests to prepare for. Every detail is planned and executed with the help of not only the White House staff, but also volunteers from all over the country.
Each First Family adds its own unique mark to the holiday traditions -- from the choice of a theme and a Christmas card, to the decision the President and I made to light a menorah during Hanukkah, and host a reception at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Our own family celebration has changed over the last eight years, especially with the joy of having two young nephews around. But most of our family traditions have remained intact. We open our gifts on Christmas morning, and it doesn't take too long for our home to look like so many others around the country. By midday, all that is left of Christmas are our memories and gifts, scraps of wrapping paper and bows, the laughter and excitement of family members, and our gratitude for the many blessings we have been given.
This year, especially, as we prepare to move, we are even more mindful of the special wonder of celebrating Christmas at the White House. And, triggered by the photographs in my new book, "An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History," we find ourselves reminiscing about the remarkable events that have taken place since January of 1993, when we first moved in.
We have seen many of life's changes, both good and bad. We weathered investigations and impeachment. We lost Bill's mother and my father, as well as close friends and advisers such as Ron Brown, Vince Foster and Chuck Ruff. We watched our daughter grow from a teenager into a young woman; welcomed Tyler and Zachary, our two new nephews, to the family; and we marked a new century and millennium.
We hosted historic events, including last year's celebration of the 50th anniversary of NATO, an event that saw the largest gathering of foreign heads of state ever to assemble at the White House, and the South Lawn handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. This week, even as we prepare to leave, the President is working to bring Mideast leaders together for yet one more peace summit.
On Nov. 1, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the White House. Imagine the wear and tear that comes with welcoming as many as 30,000 guests a week, and the care it requires to protect and preserve the 132 rooms and priceless artifacts and furnishings. But we know, just as every First Family has before us, that we are stewards, not owners of the People's House, and that we have the responsibility to pass it on -- in better shape than we found it -- to future generations.
Although there were many areas of the mansion that needed work when we arrived, the Blue Room, the State Dining Room and the Cross Hall required the most attention. Working with a group of historians, curators and designers from the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, we made decisions based not only on the history of the rooms, but also on how they are used today.
I hadn't been living here very long before I knew I wanted to write a book about our years here. Since the day we moved in, Bill and I were determined to open the White House to as many people as possible, and I knew that a book offered perhaps the next best thing to a visit for those who might never be able to come in person.
The title, "An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History," conveys a great deal about the way I've approached my years here. While a lovely and inviting venue for entertaining, the White House is also the center of our nation's political life, and a living museum of America's history.
As First Lady, I have worked hard, whether planning a social event, a policy announcement, a bill signing or a state arrival, to showcase the best of America -- from food and furnishings, to guests and entertainment. At every turn, I have been supported by a top-rate staff, eager to make my family -- and America's family -- feel at home in what is, after all, the People's House.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Talking It Over: 2000
December 13, 2000: Column on Trip to Ireland and Vital Voices Announcement
December 6, 2000: Column on Passing Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill
November 29, 2000: Column on "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History"
November 22, 2000: Column on Trip to Vietnam
November 15, 2000: Column on the 200th Anniversary of the White House
November 8, 2000: Column on New York Senate Race
November 1, 2000: Column on the Importance of Voting
October 25, 2000: Column Urging Congress to Pass Legislation Important to the American People
October 18, 2000: Column on Trafficking of Women and Children
October 11, 2000: Column on Microenterprise for Self-Reliance Act
October 4, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of AmeriCorps National Service Program
September 27, 2000: Column on Reauthorization of VAWA
September 20, 2000: Column on Ritalin
September 13, 2000: Column on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry
September 6, 2000: Column on Expanding Healthcare Benefits
August 30, 2000: Column on Making Education Our #1 Priority
August 23, 2000: Column on Pine Ridge, New Markets Tour
August 16, 2000: Column on Decision 2000
August 9, 2000: Column on the Congressional and Presidential Tax Plans
August 2, 2000: Column on Newborn Hearing Screening
July 26, 2000: Column on the 10th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act
July 19, 2000 : Column on Treasures Visit to Ellis Island
July 12, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors
July 5, 2000: Column on the Ninth Millennium Evening,
June 27, 2000: Column on Quality Education for Hispanic Youth
June 21, 2000: Column on Save America's Treasures: Val Kil Cottage, New York
June 14, 2000: Column on the Violence Against Women Act
May 31, 2000: Column on National Trails Day
May 24, 2000: Column on National Moment of Remembrance
May 17, 2000: Column on Howard Theater
May 10, 2000: Column on Million Mom March
May 3, 2000: Column on the White House Conference on Teenagers
April 26, 2000: Column on Arbor Day
April 19, 2000: Column on Earth Day
April 12, 2000: Column on International Family Planning
April 5, 2000: Column on Women Entrepreneurs and Microcredit
March 29, 2000: Column on Teen Smoking
March 22, 2000: Column on Pediatric Drugs
March 15, 2000: Column on Child Support
March 8, 2000: Column on Children and Guns
March 1, 2000: Column on Teacher Training, Recruitment and Retention
February 23, 2000: Column on D.C. Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy Launch
February 16, 2000: Column on Vital Voices Event at the White House
February 9, 2000: Column on Prescription Drug Coverage
February 2, 2000: Column on Child Care
January 26, 2000: Column on College Opportunity
January 19, 2000: Column on Human Trafficking
January 12, 2000: Column on Housing Vouchers and Affordable Housing
January 5, 2000: Column on the New Millennium
December 20, 2000: Column on Presidential Interagency Council on Women
January 17, 2001: Column on Thank You and Best Wishes to all!
January 10, 2001: Column on Memories and Achievements - Part II
January 3, 2001: Column on Memories and Achievements - Part I
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