General view of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, and the White House in the background after the traditional lighting on Thursday, in Washington, D.C. The ceremony, introduced by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923, traditionally kicks of the holiday season in the nation's capital. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 3 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden expressed hope for the future Thursday night as he participated in the annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.
With first lady Jill Biden by his side and Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in attendance for the lighting ceremony, Biden said presidents for the last 99 years have held the tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree, with the evergreen symbolizing life and abundance amid the darkest and coldest days of winter.
"It's a bright beacon of hope that reminds us of the promise we find in scripture of finding light in the darkness, which is also a very American thing to do -- perhaps the most American of things: to find light," he said. "And it's important to continue traditions like this one to remember that simple truth today."
He said he and Jill are grateful to the sacrifices made by the nation's service members and their families while stating their hearts go out to those who lost loved ones to the pandemic.
"We pray for them to find strength from sorrow, purpose from pain," he said. "And as we look out across the country with the promise of a new year ahead, we know this: We are a great nation because of you, the American people. You are a good people."
He said because of the American people, he and Jill couldn't be more optimistic about the nation's future.
"You've made me so optimistic," he said. "We have so much ahead of us."
Biden made the remarks after leading the crowd gathered at the Ellipse in a countdown that ended with him lighting the National Christmas Tree.
LL Cool J emceed the event, which included performances by Billy Porter, Kristin Chenoweth, H.E.R and others.
The first National Christmas Tree celebration was held in 1923.