At the end of a year marked by debates over immigration and refugees, President Obama and the first lady used their last Christmas message from the White House to urge tolerance and compassion.
“As we retell [the story of Jesus Christ] from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember his eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope,” the president said.
Picking up the theme, Michelle Obama said, “The idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. That we should treat others as we would want to be treated. And that we care for the sick, feed the hungry, and welcome the stranger, no matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.”
Barack Obama added, “Those are the values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans and Muslim Americans, nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds.”
Their message comes near the conclusion of a year when terror attacks and concerns about economic security in Europe and the U.S. have fueled heated debates about immigration and refugees.
Referendum voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, with campaigners arguing in part that Europe's immigration policies were not in Britain's interest. In the U.S., Donald Trump won the presidency on a platform that included the promise to build a wall on the country's southern border. And around Europe, politicians with anti-immigration stances appear to have gained popularity.
In their address, the U.S. president and first lady also recognized the country's military.
"No one better embodies that spirit of service than the men and women who wear our country’s uniform and their families," President Obama said.
“Their courage and dedication allow the rest of us to enjoy this season,” Michelle Obama said. She urged listeners to "go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can honor and support the service members, veterans and military families in your community -- not just during the holidays, but all year round."