Biden wishes Americans a merry, closer to normal Thanksgiving

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) – President Joe Biden on Thursday wished Americans a merry and closer to normal Thanksgiving, the other celebrated in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, in remarks welcoming the resumption of holiday traditions of millions of American families – including his own.

“When we give thanks for what we have, we also hold in our hearts those who have been lost and those who have lost so much,” the president said in a video recorded greeting busy with First Lady Jill Biden in the White House before their trip to Nantucket, Massachusetts, to vacation.

On the island, Bidens visited the Coast Guard station at Brant Point to meet with staff there and practically with American service members from around the world. “I’m not kidding when I say I’m grateful for these guys,” the president said when asked what he was grateful for, referring to Coast Guard members standing right in front of him on the grounds as he traveled.

Journalists were kept out of the room for Biden’s virtual remarks, apparently due to cramped space in the building. Pleasures waved and cheered, while Biden’s procession navigated the island’s narrow cobbled streets to and from the coastguard.

Biden, whose late son Beau was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, said he has seen U.S. officials in action around the world, from the South China Sea and Iraq and Afghanistan to South America. He said that when foreigners wonder what America is, “they do not see us here,” which means civilians. “They see them,” he said of members of the Coast Guard and the other branches of the U.S. military. “It makes me proud.”

From Nantucket, Bidens also called in for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, short teasing in the air with NBC broadcaster Al Roker. Excluded a year ago, spectators stood again along the route in Manhattan as about 8,000 participants attended the parade. Parade staff and volunteers were to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wearing masks.

The extended first family traditionally went for their Thanksgiving menu: roasted turkey, stuffing following a grandmother’s recipe, and other accessories. Dessert was three kinds of pies, and – not surprisingly for those who followed Biden in and out of ice cream shops on the campaign trail – chocolate ice cream.

Biden and his wife started spending Thanksgiving in Nantucket since before they got married in 1977 because they were looking for a way out of choosing whose family they would spend it with. They did not visit in 2015 after Beau’s death earlier the same year of brain cancer at the age of 46, or in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic put kibosh to large family gatherings.

Biden instead ate at home in Delaware last year with only his wife, daughter Ashley and her husband.

But this year, the president joined the millions of Americans celebrating the holiday with large groups of loved ones. Biden’s entire family flew up with him Tuesday night on Air Force One to resume the Thanksgiving tradition: his wife; son Hunter and his wife, Melissa, and their little son Beau; daughter Ashley; and grandchildren Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie and the young Hunter, as well as Naomi’s fiancé, Peter Neal.

The president has credited the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to help ease the return of family reunions this holiday season, even though a resurgent virus has fueled a rise in new infections in the United States. The president and first lady have both received their full vaccine dose and a booster.

Naomi Biden and her fiancé cycled along a local path just before her grandfather’s SUV left the secluded home where the family lives. The vast area is owned by David Rubenstein, a billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of Carlyle Group’s private equity firm.

Biden’s visit, his first as president, is markedly different from his previous vacations here when he was U.S. senator and later vice president. Then he may have been seen walking around the center.

Biden lost much of his freedom to move around on his own when he became president and now travels with a large group of security personnel, the White House and other officials and journalists. All his public movements are closely monitored by the US Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies.

Jill Biden was heard telling Coast Guard members she would see them again Friday night at Nantucket’s annual Christmas tree lighting, another Biden tradition.

“We all take,” she said of her family. The wooden lighting ceremony is where Beau Biden proposed to his wife, Hallie, in 2001. They were married on the island the following year.

The bite is expected to return to the White House on Sunday.

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Associated Press writer Calvin Woodward of Washington contributed to this report.

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