The Bidens are keeping a sweet holiday tradition — but adding a twist — to brighten up Christmas Eve for patients at Children’s National Hospital in Washington.
Although it’s typical for first ladies to visit the D.C. hospital, Friday’s visit by Dr. Jill Biden and her husband, President Joe Biden, marks the first time a sitting president joined in the fun, according to the White House (though former President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit in 2018 after he’d left office).
“We’ve never had a president come with the first lady on Christmas Eve,” a hospital administrator told the president and first lady, who greeted about a dozen kids in the decorated atrium of the hospital as the children made lanterns as part of a winter crafts project, according to pool reporters who joined the visit.
“You’re bringing us some joy,” the president, 79, told the children, including a boy named Beau.
The first lady, 70, told another child about the newest resident of the White House, a puppy named Commander. “We have a new dog. This morning he was eating my slipper,” she said. The president also showed off a photo of the 15-week-old dog and suggested Commander might visit the hospital in the summertime.
The tradition of visiting Children’s National Hospital, which dates back to First Lady Bess Truman, the White House said, includes reading a book to patients who are unable to be at home with their families during the holiday. This year, Dr. Biden read Olaf’s Night Before Christmas to the kids who sat on the floor at her feet.
Her husband joked about reading the book at night before bed — along with his presidential briefings.
Dr. Biden’s reading was broadcast by video to patients’ rooms throughout the hospital. Each child received a copy of the book so they could follow along during storytime. They also received a White House bookmark designed by the first lady’s office.
Before leaving, President Biden asked if any of the children at the hospital would like to be a doctor one day. A couple of hands went up — but others said they wanted to be a chef, a police officer an aerospace engineer, an author and a biomedical engineer.
Dr. Biden, who has visited the hospital twice before, said, “Thank you to all the nurses and doctors who are here to make [the kids] feel better.”