President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with patients at Children’s National Hospital in Washington on Friday, carrying on a longstanding tradition during the holiday season.
The first couple, sporting cloth masks, met with pediatric patients, their families and hospital staff, greeting leadership and emergency department workers. Dr. Biden read Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” before the Bidens visited with children and their families in the cardiac intensive care unit.
“Thanks for coming and listening to me read and have the president hold the book,” she said after reading, as Biden deadpanned, “It’s my job.”
And the president chimed in with a message for parents in the room before departing, saying, “To all you parents, be strong. We spent a lot of time in children’s hospitals with patients too, It’s going to be OK.”
The Bidens’ travel within Washington comes as much of the nation – including the nation’s capital – faces extreme cold weather, such as frigid temperatures, high winds and heavy snow.
According to the White House, President Biden’s visit last year marked the first time a sitting president made a holiday visit to Children’s National.
The visit ahead of Christmas Eve comes a day after the president delivered his Christmas address, where he sought to strike a unifying message.
Biden emphasized in his speech that “we’re surely making progress” and “things are getting better.”
“Covid no longer controls our lives. Our kids are back in school. People are back to work. In fact, more people are working than ever before,” he said. “Americans are building again, innovating, dreaming again.”
Still, he acknowledged that, for some, “Christmas can be a time of great pain and terrible loneliness,” drawing on his own experience with loss over the holidays – the deaths of his first wife and daughter 50 years ago this week.
“I know how hard this time of year can be … no one can ever know what someone else is going through, what’s really going on in their life, what they’re struggling with, what to try and overcome. That’s why sometimes the smallest act of kindness can mean so much,” Biden remarked.
“So, this Christmas, let’s spread a little kindness.”
CORRECTION: This story and headline have been updated to correct the name of the hospital to Children’s National Hospital.