Remarks by The First Lady at Annual Nowruz Celebration
3:15 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Hello, everyone! (Applause.) Nowruzetan Mobarak! (Applause.) Yes! Are you guys having a good time?
MRS. OBAMA: I hope so. I can hear you upstairs, you do know that? (Laughter.)
Well, it is really, truly a pleasure to welcome you to the White House today. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our second White House Nowruz than being with all of you this afternoon.
And let me start by thanking Maz. I mean, we were cracking up backstage. Max, let’s -- thank you so much, Maz. (Applause.) I got a chance to meet Maz backstage with his beautiful family, and he is hilarious. So I’m just grateful for that wonderful introduction, and happy that he could be here.
I also want to thank the many members of the White House staff who have worked so hard to make this event possible. And Pany is not on the list -- I’m going to start with Pany. (Applause.) And Ferial. (Applause.) I didn’t see Ferial. Ferial, where are you? Where are you? Where is she? My husband is making her work. You can blame him. (Laughter.)
But I want to thank those two. They are two of my favorite people. Pany -- I know, she’s so embarrassed. And Ferial, love you, sweetie! (Applause.) You guys did a great job! I’m so proud of you two. I love you both. Way to go.
And I want to make sure we -- to recognize our extraordinary new White House florist, Hedieh Ghaffarian. Hedieh, I saw you, you were running around without your clothes on -- (laughter) -- not dressed for the event -- with her sister. She has been phenomenal. We have gotten so many compliments on the floral arrangements here at the White House, and she has a wonderful spirit, and we’re just so happy to have her on our staff. Hedieh, if you’re out there, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for joining us here today. This is an amazing group. You guys have a lot of energy, because it’s the New Year and we’re all very excited. We’ve got a pretty eclectic group here. I understand we’ve got the star -- one of the stars from “Black-ish” who’s here. (Applause.) We hung out with at the Easter Egg Roll -- she told me she and her family were going to be here. We’ve got folks from companies like Google and Facebook. You can shout out for your people.
We’ve got the cofounder of Periscope, the video app, who is here. We’ve got renowned artists. We have accomplished scholars and physicians. We’ve got some fabulous students and musicians, and many, many others. So we’re happy to have you all here. I hope that after spending the recent weeks celebrating Nowruz with your loved ones and enjoying the outdoors that you’re as excited as we are to host you here.
And, as we always say, this is your house. This is the People’s House. Yes! (Applause.) So enjoy. As Barack said, “Just don’t break anything.” (Laughter.)
That’s why, when Barack and I first got here, we committed to opening this place up to as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible, especially folks who have never been through these doors before. And that’s particularly true for so many of the young people we bring into this house who would have never thought they’d walk into the White House and have a place to call their own.
We think America is strongest when we recognize our many traditions, when we celebrate our diversity, and when we lift each other up. And in times like these, when we think all -- that’s more important than ever before, right now and today with what’s going on. Right now, when we’re hearing so much disturbing and hateful rhetoric, it is so important to remember that our diversity has been -– and will always be -– our greatest source of strength and pride here in the United States. (Laughter.)
We are a nation of immigrants. And we should cherish the talent and energy and the beautiful traditions and cultures that come with that heritage, not just today but every day. But we’re happy to be celebrating it right here with you all today. So I’m proud that here at the White House, we host special events to mark the holidays -- I think Maz went through a few of them -- but we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Diwali, Cinco de Mayo. And with your help, today, we’re celebrating Nowruz, which is one of our newest White House traditions.
And as we celebrate this holiday and honor this tradition that is over 3,000 years old, we join families in the Middle East and in Asia, here in America, across the globe to mark both the dawning of a New Year and the arrival of spring. And hopefully we feel a little springy today, even though the weather, the temperature doesn’t indicate that. (Laughter.)
In so many communities worldwide, Nowruz is a time to visit loved ones. It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and to renew our hopes for the New Year to come. And we have a lot to reflect upon since last year’s White House Nowruz. And as we consider the flowers and the trees that are finally in bloom -- isn’t it beautiful outside?
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, it’s so good -- and the dreams and aspirations that we all share, as Americans and as human beings, I think we can have even higher hopes for peace and prosperity in the years to come.
As the great Persian poet Hafez once wrote -- and these are his words -- “Out of a great need. We are all holding hands. And climbing.” And as we come together and set our sights on the future, we have once again created this beautiful White House Haft-Seen that’s behind me. (Applause.) I’d like to say I had something to do with it, but I know Hedieh did everything. (Laughter.) Just like the ones you create in your home, it is filled to the brim with our “Seven S’s” of wishes for the year ahead –- from grass sprouts representing the blooming of nature, to apples for health and beauty -- which I believe in, deeply -- and many other symbols of love and joy.
And because no Nowruz celebration would be complete without plenty of food to share with family and friends, I hope that you all have enjoyed all the traditional dishes I haven’t had a chance to taste yet -- (applause) -- some of which feature the ingredients from our very own White House Kitchen Garden. Yes! (Applause.) So I want us to take a moment to thank our fabulous guest chef Najmieh Batmanglij. (Applause.) I got to meet Najmieh and her family back in the back, and she told me to make sure I tried the soup because it brings good luck. So I’m going to do that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Asheh Reshteh!
MRS. OBAMA: What?
AUDIENCE: Asheh Reshteh!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, all right. I’m going to try some! (Laughter.) And Najmieh worked, of course, with our amazing White House chefs. Let’s give them all a round of applause. (Applause.) I hope the food has been good.
And finally, for our entertainment today we have the Nomad Dancers. And all the way from Vienna, we have the Center for Persian Classical Music, directed by Nader Majd, who is here. (Applause.) They’re going to be performing for us shortly, and I know they will be amazing.
So let me just end by thanking you all. Thank you for your love, and your friendship, and your support, and your kind words, and your prayers, and your hard work, and the pride with which you live and raise your children. Because, in the end, it’s all about our kids, right?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Correct!
MRS. OBAMA: We are creating a country and a world -- yes! That’s the proud mother. I see your daughter right there. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. This is -- oh. (Applause.) Thank you. We are honored to have you here at the White House. So I want you to make yourselves at home. I want you to enjoy every second of it. And just remember, we are always with you. We are thinking and working for you every single day.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: We love you too. (Applause.) Happy Nowruz! Enjoy. (Applause.)
3:27 P.M. EDT