By Ian Swanson - 07/04/09 11:04 PM EDT
Military families were the guests of honor at the party, which closed with fireworks on the National Mall.
Dave Grohl, lead singer and guitarist for the Foo Fighters, grew up in Alexandria and said he used to “sweat his butt off” watching the fireworks on the mall. He said he never thought he’d be performing on a stage just yards from the Oval Office in front of about 1,500 people.
“Look at where we are,” said master of ceremonies Jimmy Fallon, a former star on “Saturday Night Live.”
“That’s the White House. This is awesome,” he said. “We should do this every year.”
The barbeque featured ice cream, games for the kids, beer and wine and a rock and roll concert. A lack of rain and cool temperatures for July in Washington added to the good spirits.
President Obama, in remarks at the beginning of the evening, said the spirit behind the event was to throw a backyard party just like the ones being held across the county.
Even if the White House backyard “is a little bit unique,” he said the gathering was not so different from others taking place in parks, fields and backyards across America.
“In small towns and big cities, folks are firing up grills, laughing with family and friends, and laying out a blanket in preparation for the big show,” Obama said. “They’re reliving the simple, unmistakable joys of being an American.”
Obama also credited the “brave efforts” of U.S. troops for enabling the military to transfer control to all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraqi security forces this week. He said those efforts were allowing “a sovereign and united Iraq” to take control of its own destiny.
“You have done everything that has been asked of you,” Obama said of the military. He then renewed a pledge to ensure U.S. soldiers always have the equipment and support they need to get the job done.
Those attending the festivities included wounded veterans from the Walter Reed Medical Center. White House staff were also invited, and several notables could be seen on the lawn, including Obama’s chief economic advisor Larry Summers.
The Foo Fighters rifled through about a half dozen of their hits, and appeared to close their finale early to make way for the fireworks, which started during the middle of their final song.
Fallon, the host of NBC’s “Late Night,” and singer Michelle Branch also performed.