Bidens visit patients at Children’s National Hospital

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
First lady Jill Biden, accompanied by President Joe Biden, reads “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, visited Children’s National Hospital on the Friday before Christmas to visit with patients and read a story.

Sitting in front of a towering Christmas tree, the president helped hold the book while the first lady read “The Snowy Day,” an award-winning story about a boy named Peter and his adventures in the snow. This year is the 60th anniversary of the book, written by Ezra Jack Keats.

Jill Biden noted that Washington “had a little, tiny bit of snow” Friday as temperatures plunged. “Did anybody see it?” she asked.

When the story mentioned Peter and snow angels, she asked how many of the patients had ever made them. “I loved to do that,” she said.

When finished reading, the first lady said, “Merry Christmas and happy holidays everybody. Thanks for coming and listening to me read and have the president hold the book.”

“That’s my job,” he added.

Biden and his wife also met in private with pediatric patients and their families. The White House said they also thanked doctors, nurses and staff, including at the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit.

Jill Biden’s visit continued an 80-year annual tradition dating to Bess Truman of first ladies bringing holiday cheer to children who are too ill to be at home on Christmas. President Biden joined his wife last year, making the first visit by a sitting president.

Kurt Newman, the hospital’s president and CEO, said he asked the president last year to return this year and exclaimed, “Look, he did!”

“It’s so important to all of our families, our kids and our staff because there’ve been a lot of challenges,” Newman said of the visit. ”We look forward to seeing you next year.”

Before leaving, the president told parents in the audience to “be strong.” He said his family has spent a lot of time in children’s hospitals, too. “It’s gonna be OK,” Biden said.