With the singing of carols on a crisp night, President Clinton lit the national Christmas tree Wednesday and said the glow of its sparkling lights symbolizes the search for peace in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
And with the 40-foot living Colorado blue spruce gleaming on the Ellipse behind the White House, Clinton leaned from the stage and plucked 9-year-old Catherine Hammill from the audience. She is the little girl from Northern Ireland who moved him to near tears last week with her account of the tragedies brought by war, including the killing of her father.
At that tree-lighting in Belfast, the blond, chubby-faced Catherine, a Roman Catholic, joined hands with 10-year-old David Sterrett, a Protestant, and, in Clinton's words, they together "told the world of their hopes for the future, a future in which the only barriers they face are the limits of their dreams."
Catherine and her family were sent to Washington by a British newspaper.
". . . As we light this magnificent Christmas tree, let us remember a million small lights add up to make a great blaze of glory, not for ourselves but for our families, our nation and the world, and for the future of our children," the president said.
He then pushed a button and the tree erupted in a pattern of red holiday bows etched by more than 6,000 lights. The tree is topped by a 36-inch three-dimensional illuminated star.