One hundred and fifty fourth graders, mostly children of troops fighting overseas, joined George and Laura Bush in the East Room for the performance. Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, said in a statement, "As America's National Ballet Company, ABT is truly honored to perform at The White House. ABT's dancers are thrilled to bring some of The Nutcracker holiday magic to this young audience."
The president thanked the children, who sat cross-legged on the floor, for their parents' efforts and acknowledged that it must be particularly difficult for the kids to be separated from them during the holiday season.
"We really want you to know that they're doing important work. They're not only protecting the country, but they're helping other boys and girls live in freedom like we do here in the United States, and that's important," the president said, according to a White House press release.