Below are the speaker’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“What a beautiful tree.
“What a beautiful occasion.
“I want to thank everyone who had a hand in pulling all of this together.
“I know it is no small task, especially when the tree comes all the way from Oregon.
“I want to thank my colleagues in the Oregon delegation: Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader, and Greg Walden. And especially Peter DeFazio, for sharing a piece of his district with us.
“This is my fourth and final time leading this event and each time the tree is more stunning.
“I will say though, we have some pretty nice trees in Wisconsin, too… keep that in mind one of these years.
“But this beautiful noble fir made a long journey, stopping in communities all across the country, so that people could share in this wonderful tradition.
“What a tremendous way to come together.
“This week, our nation mourns the loss of a giant.
“And while his loss is a great sorrow, George H.W. Bush was also a beacon of joy.
“A few days after one of his granddaughters was born, President Bush wrote her a letter.
“He ends the letter by saying how you can do all these incredible things in life, but ‘even with all that,’ he writes, ‘what counts is family and love.’
“Now, he didn’t necessarily write that about Christmas, but is there anything that better captures its spirit…its light?
“We celebrate Christmas year after year and somehow it never becomes less special.
“A season dedicated to wonder and faith.
“We take our joy at the birth of a savior, heralded by angels, and we spread that joy to those in our lives.
“We could all use a little more of that.
“Sometimes, our best blessings are hidden.
“My favorite Christmas movie is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ It captures this idea so well.
“I watch it every year. It’s in black-and-white, so part of the tradition involves trying to convince my kids to watch it with me.
“In the movie, George Bailey despairs he has fallen short in life. He goes so far as to imagine the world would be better off without him.
“Only when an angel comes to him and reveals how much he is loved, how much he is worth—only then does he realize that he truly has a wonderful life.
“We all have angels in our own lives who remind us of our blessings.
“There is so much good, so much joy, so much compassion around us, and we simply fail to see it.
“It’s there, but hidden.
“All it needs is just a few points of light.
“So in a moment, we will light this tree.
“We always try to bring in an expert to help us out with this.
“This year, it’s Brigette Harrington from Hillsboro.
“Brigette won a contest with her poem about Oregon’s outdoors and what they mean to her.
“I’ve asked her to share a few lines.”
“Now, it’s time for us to light this tree. Brigette, let’s give them a countdown… five…”