President Obama Delivers Remarks at a Picnic for Members of Congress

President Obama Delivers Remarks at a Picnic for Members of Congress


The President:
Hello, everybody! Well, first of all, let’s
give a big round of applause to the best house band in
the world, our outstanding Marine band. Give them a big
round of applause. (applause) They can play anything. Bruno Mars. (laughter) Yo-Yo Ma. It doesn’t matter. I mean, they sounded great. I was rocking out a little
bit in the Oval Office. It is so good to see all
of you at what is just a wonderful event. One of the only things that
I don’t like about this event is each year I see
some of the same kids, and they’re getting
a lot taller. (laughter) Which means I’m
getting a lot older. But for members of Congress
to be able to bring their families together on an
incredible day like this is a true blessing. Obviously, this has been a
difficult week for America because all of us are still
grieving for those who were lost in Orlando. All of us still have our
thoughts and prayers for the families of those who were
killed, but also for those who are still recovering,
and for the city of Orlando. And one of the things that
— when I was talking to the mayor, Buddy Dyer, down
there — I emphasized is that this is something that
could happen anywhere. And these could be our kids,
or our brothers, or our cousins, or nephews, nieces. And at moments like this,
it’s critically important for us to remind ourselves
of what binds us together as a people — that regardless
of race or ethnicity or religion or sexual
orientation, we’re all Americans, and we look
out for each other. We celebrate those things
we hold dear and have in common, like love of family
and love of country. We mourn together when part
of that family is hurt. And I know that that’s
something that all of you feel — whenever things like
this happen, we squeeze our families a little more
tightly, and we’re reminded of what’s important in life. I’m not going to talk long
because I want to shake as many hands as possible —
although I still got to apply the “no
selfie rule” — (laughter) — because otherwise I’m
here for like four hours. But I do want to just say
thank you to all of you. I want to say thanks to the
members of Congress who are here. I know that we’re at a
contentious time in our political life
in this country. The truth is, though, it’s
important not to romanticize the past. Democracy has always been
contentious and it’s always messy — because we’re a big
country and we’re a diverse country. And people are not going to
agree 100 percent of the time on some of the big
issues that we care about. But one of the things I’ve
tried to emphasize — and I spoke at a couple of
commencements this past month — I said that one of
the things about democracy is, is that it works because
we try to compromise, even when you think you’re
100 percent right. In that sense, it’s
a lot like marriage. (laughter) Because as fierce and as
important as the debates are, the institutions that
we built, the Constitution upon which we’re founded,
the traditions and the habits of the heart that
have allowed us to live in this greatest country on
Earth — those are what’s lasting. Those are more permanent
and more important than any immediate difference
or debate. I think it’s also important
for us to remember at a time when partisanship is
seemingly at an all-time high, that none of us are
born Democrat or Republican. And the labels we apply
to ourselves, they mean something. They indicate commitments or
sets of principles that may not always mesh up. But the things that really
matter in our lives, they can’t be captured
by a party label. The things that bind this
country together transcend political party. And it’s useful for us to
remember that, as well, when we are engaging
in these debates. And I’m only going to be
here a little bit longer — Audience: Aww — The President: No, my
lease is running out. (laughter) And I’m already trying to
look at the carpet and the walls to make sure I
get my deposit back. (laughter) But what I’ve told my staff
— and I hope those of you who are serving are keeping
in mind every single day — is that this is an
extraordinary privilege, our chance to serve the American
people; our chance to, in some very small way, shape
history in ways that we hope are better. It’s precious and
it’s a privilege. And we should every single
day count our blessings and apply ourselves to the work
with an enthusiasm and a vigor that is appropriate
for the privilege that the people of America
bequeathed upon us. And the last point I want
to make is just, to the families, I want
to say thank you. Because certainly one thing
that binds Democrats and Republicans together is that
their families carry an enormous burden. You miss stuff. Time flies. You’re away for a soccer
game or a birthday party, or a dance recital. And as somebody who just
saw — I cried at my older daughter’s graduation. It’s a reminder that we
a lot of times put our families in a tough
situation, thinking that perhaps we can do some good. And they may believe in us
real hard and make a lot of sacrifices, but they are
sacrifices nonetheless. So to the spouses, to the
kids, we just want to say thank you. And that, too, should make
us sober and serious about the work that we do, because
if we’re not actually making this country better,
then it’s not worth the sacrifice. And we owe it not just to
the people who elected us, but also to our own families
to make sure that we make the very best of it. So I want to
thank all of you. I want to thank again
the Marine band. I want to point out that
sometimes people don’t realize, our Marine band,
these are active-duty folks. They’re serving our country. Our hearts go out to
the people of Orlando. (applause) But our hearts also are
filled with gratitude for those men and women in
uniform who serve us every day, those law enforcement
and first responders who at times of desperate need,
like what we saw in Orlando, are there on the spot,
trying to make sure that they’re keeping us safe. We are extraordinarily
grateful to them. Have a great
time, everybody. God bless you. (applause) God bless America.

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