Topping off a long day of inaugural events, newly minted second term President Obama told U.S. armed forces tonight that he has "no greater honor than being your commander in chief."
The president began his three-stop swing through inaugural ball events this evening at the Commander in Chief's Ball, at the Washington Convention Center. "This party is just another way to say something we can never say enough: thank you for volunteering, thank you for stepping up, thank you for keeping us strong, thank you for always making us proud," he said.
Mr. Obama said he wanted to "express the extraordinary gratitude, not just of me as your commander in chief, but the thanks of all the American people." He specifically thanked the senior enlisted offers from all branches of the military, Gen. Martin Dempsey and his deputy Adm. James Winnefeld, Jr., plus wounded warriors, junior enlisted officers, "amazing military families including the families of the fallen," members of the Tuskegee Airmen and recipients of the Medal of Honor.
"It is because of you that we were able to end the war in Iraq," he told the room full of service members, dressed primarily in uniform, and their guests. "Because of you, we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. Because of you, it is possible to give Afghans a chance to determine their own destiny. We are going forward and we will keep the fighting force that the world has ever known."
He then spoke via videolink to some members on the ground in Afghanistan, and told them "when you get back home, you're gonna be greeted by a grateful nation. And you are gonna be on our minds tonight, and every single night until our mission in Afghanistan is complete."
Inviting his "date," first lady Michelle Obama, to the stage, the president spoke for the second time today about how she "makes me a better man and a better president." The couple took the spotlight for the first dance to Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," performed by Jennifer Hudson, before switching dance partners with members of the military.
The president this year made the decision to downsize the number of official balls from 10 to two. Next on tap for the Obamas is a move down the hall of the convention center, where he will speak - and dance - for two separate floors of the public inaugural ball.