National Tree Lighting – and Ms. Betty

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially in front of the ellipse at the White House, where the National Christmas tree is all decorated and ready to be set a-glow.

The Christmas tree lighting at the Ellipse marks the official start of the holiday season in Washington, but the stars aren’t the only ones on the tree — some of Hollywood’s brightest will also be here! Including a personal favorite, REESE WITHERSPOON Y’ALL!

Reese is hosting the event, performers include Crosby, Stills & Nash, Tori Kelly (love her), Kelsey Ballerini and a few others.

The First Family will also be on stage to assist in the lighting. If you were lucky enough to snag a ticket through the lottery to the ceremony, check the back of your ticket for information.
New this year – some restrictions on what you need to bring. “If you’ve got to bring something with you, put it in in a clear, plastic bag, just like at the airport,” says Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles with the National Park Police

Rehearsals took place this morning, and I got to hear the ah-mazing Tori Kelly sing. That girl’s got PIPES!

I didn’t get to meet Tori or Kelsey or Nash, but I did get to meet another special guest – perhaps even more worthy of sharing the stage with our Commander-in-Chief: 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin.

She’s a park ranger in California who still works 5 days-a-week. Yes, you read right – a 94-year-old park ranger.

“I earned every year of it!” says Betty.

Before the tree lighting, she’ll be introducing the President. She remembers getting the phone call inviting her to Washington: “Suddenly my life turned into italics, it was just amazing.”

It’s a special moment for Ms. Betty in more ways than one, who worked in a segregated union hall during World War II. But this isn’t her first time in Washington. She was here for the President’s first inauguration.

Ms. Betty’s story is pretty incredible. Her great-grandmother, Leonine Braud, was born a slave in 1846. “I knew my slave ancestry as the matriarch of my family. So to be seated in the Capitol Mall in this incredible ritual, is incredible.”

Ms. Betty was 27-years-old when her great-grandmother died, but she still keeps of picture of her in her uniform every day. The picture was with her during the inauguration, and now today, during the tree lighting…where she will introduce the first African-American president.

“This is now serving to book-end for me. It’s now coming back to Washington, in almost the end of his second term, with my great-grandmother in my breast pocket. To witness this tree lighting, it’s the most holy of book-ending,” she says. “I am so honored to be here. To still be on the planet to experience all this.”
Does Ms. Betty ever plan to retire? Here’s what she told me: “I plan to go straight from the National Parks to the cemetery.”Wow.
I could sit and talk to Ms. Betty for hours. No, she didn’t look or act like most 94-year-olds, and her wisdom far exceeded my expectations.

I asked Ms. Betty what being here today means to her: “It shows that so much more is possible than we can ever dream of. I hope that stands for young people today.”

“If my life can illustrate any of that, then maybe that’s my contribution, that matches the involuntary contribution of my great-grandmother.”

After the tree-lighting, Ms. Betty will go back to California.
But you can still watch her story HERE.
And, see the tree on the live stream HERE.

In DC? From December 9th until December 22nd there will be live performances in front of the tree.


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