ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
“To get in the right Christmas mood,” President Obama made a surprise visit to the Boys and Girls Club in NE Washington, DC this afternoon and read “The Polar Express” to about 25 boys and girls ranging in ages from six-years-old to eleven-years-old.
After a boisterous reading of the holiday book – where at the times the president made a chuckling sound like Santa - Mr. Obama spoke to the kids about the real meaning of Christmas.
“Even though there's a lot of fun at Christmas, you know, you got -- especially when it's snowy like this, so it's pretty outside, you got the Christmas tree, you got the Christmas cookies, you've got presents. You know, I think that the most important thing is just to remember why we celebrate Christmas. Do you know why?”
The children’s hands shot up and one shouted out “the birth of the baby Jesus,” for which the president commended him.
“The birth of baby Jesus, and what he symbolizes for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect,” Obama explained. “And so I just hope that spirit of giving that's so important at Christmas, I hope all of you guys remember that as well. You know, it's not just about getting gifts but it's also doing something for other people.”
Having a little fun, the president asked the children what they want for Christmas this year, soliciting a wide variety of answers: IPods, the Harry Potter book, a play station portable, and a cell phone.
“Whatever happened to like, asking for a bike?” the president joked of the tech-savvy responses.
The kids said they already have bikes– one boy said he had three.
Mr. Obama said the kids had all been good so passed out some Christmas cookies from a basket for the children: some cookies shaped like Bo the Obama’s dog, gingerbread, little Christmas trees, and maple leave cookies.
The group of children are off of school today, the first day of DC public schools' winter break. But the president used the chance to speak about the importance of working hard in school when they go back after break.
“You guys have so much potential -- one of you could end up being President some day. But it's only going to happen if you stay focused and you work hard in school. And you guys -- there's nothing wrong with having fun and fooling around and playing sports and listening to rap music and all that stuff. But I want you guys to read and hit the books and do your math, because that's really what's going to determine how you do in the future."
On his way out, Mr. Obama was challenged to a game of foosball if he returned.
“You a good foosball player?,” Mr. Obama asked the boy. “I don't like to get beat.”
“I’ll let you win,” the boy responded.