Obama, his wife, daughters, and mother-in-law took part in
the annual tradition, which featured music by singers Mariah
Carey, Aretha Franklin, and the group Train.
"You are lucky I'm not singing," Obama joked to the rain-soaked
The president used the occasion to pay tribute again to Nelson
Mandela, the former South African president who died on
"This year, we give a special measure of gratitude for Nelson
Mandela, a man who championed ... generosity of spirit," Obama
said to applause. "In his life, he blessed us with tremendous
grace and unbelievable courage. And we are all privileged to
live in a world touched by his goodness."
At the beginning of the ceremony, Obama initiated a countdown
that concluded with the lighting of the large tree — but he
started from five rather than 10 to speed up the proceedings in
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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