Biden helps light National Christmas Tree near White House

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Billy Porter performs as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden attend the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden helped light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday while remembering those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and crediting the American people for his optimism.

Biden also paid tribute to service members, thanking them for their sacrifices.

“We are a great nation because of you, the American people,” Biden said, joined on stage by his wife, first lady Jill Biden. “You’ve made me so optimistic.”

It was Biden’s first time participating in the nearly 100-year-old tradition in the nation’s capital. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, joined the Bidens.

Singer-actor LL Cool J hosted the program, which featured performances by Billy Porter, Chris Stapleton, H.E.R., Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LaBelle and Howard University’s gospel choir.

The evergreen tree on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, was lit up in red and white lights. It is surrounded by smaller trees representing every U.S. state and territory and the District of Columbia. Students from across the country made the ornaments used to decorate the trees.

The first National Christmas Tree lighting was held on Christmas Eve in 1923.

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