First lady Jill Biden coaxed President Joe Biden onstage Thursday evening at the White House during a Lunar New Year celebration to mark the conclusion of a dragon dance performance.
‘Are you going to dance?’ the president asked the first lady as the troupe ended their performance and there was an awkward pause.
‘No, you’re going to come up. … Come on up Joe! No, you’re not going to dance,’ Dr. Biden replied, as the president teased he might do so. ‘Believe me, you don’t want to ruin the evening,’ the first lady added.
Dr. Biden then invited the audience to a reception and expertly walked between her husband and reporters as they shouted questions about the documents debacle and whether he’d allow the FBI to search their Rehoboth Beach home.
The president touted that the White House was hosting the ‘first Lunar New Year reception of this scale’ during the Thursday evening affair and added that he had received California Rep. Judy Chu’s blessing to hold the joyous event – in the aftermath of two mass shootings that took place in Asian-American communities.
‘I spoke with Judy several days ago. I said, “Judy what should I do? Should I continue – should I be in California or should I still have this celebration?” And she felt very strongly,’ the president said. ‘She said we have to move forward. Her message was don’t give into fear and sorrow. Don’t do that. Stand in solidarity and the spirit of toughness, that’s what this holiday is all about.’
President Joe Biden watches the Choy Wun Lion Dance Troupe perform a dragon dance at the White House’s Lunar New Year celebration Thursday evening
Dr. Biden had coaxed her husband back onstage at the conclusion of the troup’s performance – but jokingly told him no dancing
President Joe Biden greet attendees Thursday as he departs the Lunar New Year event, but didn’t answer any reporters’ questions about the classified document debacle
Across the country, Lunar New Year celebrations have been marked with sadness after a gunman killed 11 people in Monterey Park, California at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, after an all-day Lunar New Year festival was held in an adjacent street on Saturday.
Chu represents Monterey Park in the House.
The shooter, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, then tried to kill more people at the nearby Lai Lai Ballroom, but a worker scared him off.
Biden said he had called 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, who had put a stop to the rampage.
The president remarked that Tsay had ‘followed his courage.’
‘It’s pretty profound,’ Biden noted.
The gunman was found dead in his car of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The incident, while not racially motivated, caused security to be increased at Lunar New Year celebrations around the country – as anti-Asian sentiment has increased since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Kamala Harris brought a bouquet of flowers to a makeshift memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio while visiting Monterey Park, California on Wednesday
Vice President Kamala Harris looks at the makeshift memorial for shooting victims that was constructed outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California after a gunman killed 11 people on Saturday
The president acknowledged the increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans during the event.
‘Silence is complicity,’ he told the East Room crowd.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who represented California in the U.S. Senate, paid her condolences to family members in Monterey Park Wednesday.
Biden noted that Harris has ‘deep ties to the area’ and was just getting back.
Additionally, on Monday, another gunman, identified as 66-year-old Chunli Zhao, opened fire at two farms in the heavily Asian-American community.
The president and first lady held a moment of silence for the victims.
They then turned to the more spirited part of the program
First lady Jill Biden (right) reaches out to Elaine Tso (center), CEO of Asian Services in Action, who introduced President Joe Biden (left) at the Lunar New Year event
President Joe Biden cheers on a dragon dance performed by the Choy Wun Lion Dance Troupe in the White House’s East Room Thursday evening
President Joe Biden stood front row to watch the dragon dance, after boasting that his White House was the first to host a Lunar New Year event ‘of this scale’
The dancers made the dragon stand completely up during the dance and unrolled a scroll wishing health and prosperity during the new year
‘Jill and I are honored to welcome you to the first Lunar New Year reception of this scale held in the White House, your home,’ the president said, adding, ‘Jill and I are very temporary residents in this home.’
An audience member shouted back: ‘Not too temporary.’
‘God, love you,’ the president responded back.
He noted how in many Asian cultures it’s the year of the rabbit, but in Vietnam it’s the year of the cat, applauding the animal for being ‘magestic’ and its ‘persistence.’
‘By the way that sounds like our cat Willow,’ the president remarked. ‘Willow may walk in here any time now. She has no limits. You think I’m kidding – I’m not. Especially in the middle of the night when she climbs up and lays on top of my head.’
He also applauded the film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, with its largely Asian cast, walked away with 11 Academy Award nominations.
And while he talked about how it was a time for celebrating, he interrupted himself telling the crowd, ‘no firecrackers tonight.’
‘No I’m serious. I was thinking about that, you know? If things hadn’t been like they’ve been the last couple years we should have been fireworks outside,’ Biden said. ‘Celebrating with firecrackers and dance – we’ve got dance.’
The White House had the Choy Wun Lion Dance Troupe perform a dragon dance for several minutes as the president marveled from the front row.