The First Family on Sunday hosted more than 1,200 military members and their families for an Independence Day celebration.
President Barack Obama addressed his guests to kick off the event that was replete with stand-up comedy from Cedric the Entertainer, folk singer Brandi Carlile, and rock band The Killers. The evening wrapped up with the viewing of the fireworks on the National Mall. The White House streamed the entire celebration live.
Obama said that he could not think of a better way to spend the 4th of July than with men and women in uniform.
The president gave a shout-out to an individual member of each branch of the services, including an Army soldier who did 150 missions in Iraq after being seriously wounded, a sailor who worked with explosive ordnance, a wounded female airman, a Marine who won a Bronze Star and a U.S. Coast Guardsman who arrived in Haiti shortly after the earthquake.
"This is the day when we celebrate the very essence of America and the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries," Obama said. "Even now, all these years later, we still look in awe at the small band of patriots who stood up and risked everything and defied an empire to declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."
The president also quoted lines from the Declaration of Independence, adding, "These are not simply words on aging parchment; they are the principles that define us as a nation." The menu at the White House celebration included hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, watermelon pops, corn on the cob and potato salad. Beer and wine were being served along with soft drinks, according to the White House press pool report. Bo the White House dog was soaked from running through the sprinklers.
Earlier in the day, Michelle Obama delivered a message to the American public to support the military and their families. The U.S. military has been at war since October 2001, starting with Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Obama hit the golf course earlier in the day at Andrew Air Force Base.
Vice President Joe Biden, visiting in Iraq, led a celebration at the Embassy compound in Baghdad. "The creation of the United States was a conscious, a deliberately conscious act to bring liberty and prosperity to all people in the world," Biden said. "I’m not saying that we have been a perfect nation; we certainly have not. But as my grandfather would say, in the main, over the past 234 years, we’ve abided by those principles."