WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama and his family participated in the 31st annual “Christmas in Washington” charity concert today. Featuring performances including Motown icon Diana Ross and the Naval Academy Glee Club, the event’s proceeds are donated to a leading children’s hospital.
“Tonight is a chance to get in the Christmas spirit, to spread some joy and sing along to artists who have much better voices than we do,” Obama said in remarks toward the end of the evening. “But it’s also a chance to make a real difference in the lives of some very brave young people being treated at Children’s National Medical Center. Many of these kids and their parents are going through tough times right now and your support helps give them a reason to hope.”
The president said he wished the spirit of giving lasted throughout the entire year because, “that’s really what Christmas is all about.”
Obama went on to comment that while it is a holiday of the Christian faith, many world religions espouse treating “our brothers and sisters with the same love and compassion that we want for ourselves.”
“Each of us is incredibly blessed in so many ways,” he said. “But those blessings aren’t just meant to be enjoyed, they’re meant to be used and shared with those who have less.”
Entertainment for Christmas in Washington is not chosen by the White House, but it has been tradition for presidents to attend the charity event since its inception in 1981. Tonight’s gathering was hosted by late-night comedian Conan O’Brien.
“Yes, tonight is about Conan, and Diana Ross, and Santa, all the other talented folks on this stage,” Obama continued. “But it’s also about the Americans who are spending this holiday in a hospital bed or a shelter, or protecting our freedom on the battlefield far from home.”
The president concluded by asking the audience to keep those less fortunate in their prayers. TNT network will broadcast the performance on Dec. 21.
Before his remarks the president met with the “elves” of the event, child performers dressed as Santa Claus’ helpers. As the children rang jingle bells President Obama cheered, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” adding, “You might be the best elves ever.”
The elves were once patients of the children’s hospital and were attending the performance with their families.
Tonight’s festivities weren’t without some controversy, however, over the stage appearance of South Korean rapper PSY.
PSY rose to international stardom this year when his single, “Gangnam Style” went viral, eventually setting a new record as the most watched video on YouTube. But his image was marred last week when footage surfaced of the artist singing explicit, derogatory lyrics aimed at insulting U.S. service members in 2004. In 2002 he smashed a model of an American tank on stage.
The artist, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, issued a lengthy apology on Friday for the performances.
“While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted,” it reads. “I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused anyone by those words.”
The full text and background of PSY’s apology can be found here.
Gangnam Style is a satirical work about the Gangnam-gu district of Seoul, a wealthy and influential area of the capital. The music video’s amusing choreography, imagery, and catchy track helped propel it to the top of American music charts, but as reported by the Atlantic, its subversive critique of the region’s opulence and class divide may have been lost in translation on some western listeners.
Psy has made numerous appearances on U.S. television, including “Good Morning America.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.