Clinton Lights National Christmas Tree
WASHINGTON (AP) _ With the singing of carols on a crisp night, President Clinton lit the national Christmas tree Wednesday and said the glow of its sparkling lights symbolizes the search for peace in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
And with the 40-foot living Colorado blue spruce gleaming on the Ellipse behind the White House, Clinton leaned from the stage and plucked 9-year-old Catherine Hammill from the audience. She is the little girl from Northern Ireland who moved him to near tears last week with her account of the tragedies brought by war, including the killing of her own father.
At that tree lighting in Belfast, the blonde, chubby-faced Catherine, a Roman Catholic, joined hands with 10-year-old David Sterrett, a Protestant, and, in Clinton’s words, they together ``told the world of their hopes for the future, a future in which the only barriers they face are the limits of their dreams.″
Catherine Hammill and her family were sent to Washington by a British newspaper.
In his speech, Clinton appealed again for wider public understanding of his decision to send U.S. troops on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia.
``Let us bless the peacemakers at this Christmas time from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to our own troops in Bosnia,″ he said. ``Let us pray especially for our own peacemakers, those who will go to Bosnia and those who are soon to come home from Haiti.″
``And as we light this magnificent Christmas tree let us remember, a million small lights add up to make a great blaze of glory, not for ourselves but for our families, our nation and the world and for the future of our children,″ the president said.
He then pushed a button and the tree erupted in a pattern of bright-red holiday bows etched by more than 6,000 lights. The tree is topped by a 36-inch, three-dimensional illuminated star.
The White House tree-lighting ceremony has been held continuously since 1923, and Clinton used the button in a switch box first used in that year by Calvin Coolidge.
For decades a cut tree was used. But the present living tree has served as the national Christmas tree every year since 1978.