WASHINGTON – President Bush on Saturday urged Americans to help the neediest among them by volunteering to care for the sick, the elderly and the poor in a Christmas day call for compassion.
“Many of our fellow Americans still suffer from the effects of illness or poverty, others fight cruel addictions, or cope with division in their families, or grieve the loss of a loved one,” he said in his weekly radio address.
“Christmastime reminds each of us that we have a duty to our fellow citizens, that we are called to love our neighbor just as we would like to be loved ourselves,” Bush said. “By volunteering our time and talents where they are needed most, we help heal the sick, comfort those who suffer, and bring hope to those who despair, one heart and one soul at a time.”
On a day relaxing with his own family at Camp David, Md., Bush turned his attention to military personnel working the holiday away from theirs. Close-by, he was spending time with the Marines who protect the presidential retreat during a dinnertime visit to their mess hall, according to White House spokesman Taylor Gross.
And over the radio waves, Bush assured U.S. troops overseas that they are in the thoughts and prayers of their fellow Americans.
“In Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, these skilled and courageous Americans are fighting the enemies of freedom and protecting our country from danger,” Bush said. He called 10 members of the U.S. military around the world and in the United States on Friday to thank them for their service and to share holiday greetings.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s Democratic radio address also praised U.S. forces.
“No one has fulfilled the spirit of the Christmas season more than the men and women who are serving our military overseas,” Richardson said. “That includes thousands of reservists and National Guard troops who are bravely making such tremendous sacrifices.”
Richardson said the troops “defend our land out of the sheer values of patriotism, community and love of country. Our nation speaks with one voice when we express our gratitude.”
Bush and his family are spending a long Christmas weekend at Camp David.
“Santa did, in fact, come by,” Gross reported, adding that the president gave his wife, Laura, dessert plates that match her china set. Mrs. Bush, in turn, gave the president a raincoat.
After Bush’s visit with the Marines, he was to sit down for a Christmas dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries, gravy and pecan and pumpkin pies, Gross said.
Today, Bush flies to their home in Crawford, Texas, where he is scheduled to remain until Jan. 2.
Aides say Bush’s holiday vacation is true down time. After a hard year of campaigning and managing a grinding war, he intends to unwind, and will not be interviewing candidates for key Cabinet posts. The two vacant Cabinet jobs are the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.