Once again for the choir -- once again for the choir, the New Spirit. (Applause)
Ladies and gentlemen, I said it last year and it's worth repeating; were it not for the Governor of the state of California, the opening of Martin Luther King Hospital would not have been realized in the time sequence that it happened. I'm one that believes credit ought to be given where credit is due. We owe a great degree of respect and acknowledgement to the Governor of the state of California.
He is with us here again tonight and next year he will be invited again and the year after, until this hospital is open, to see it all the way through. Please join me in welcoming the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for the wonderful introduction and for all the great, great work that you have done in the past. I mean, Mark has been a great, great partner over the years and a very dedicated public servant and totally selflessly. And so I just want to say thank you for the great friendship and thank you for the great work that you have been doing for the people of California, for this community and especially for this hospital, I tell you.
But first of all, before we talk about the hospital, I just want to say a big thank you also to all of you for working together and making this hospital become a reality. I want to say also thank you to the CHP that are doing this toy drive year after year, to give out toys to kids that are less fortunate. (Applause) And so I'm, after this event, going to participate in handing out some toys and seeing some of those kids. But I think it's an extraordinary thing, so let's give a big hand to the CHP. (Applause)
Now, I have done a lot of tree lighting celebrations because it's Christmastime and Chanukah and lighting the menorah at the Capitol. And also, we just recently had a big tree lighting ceremony up at the Capitol and there we had this giant tree of 55 feet and 9,000 lights up there and we called it "The Tree of Heroes."
And the reason why we called it The Tree of Heroes was because we awarded that day the medal, the Governor's Medal of Valor, to so many state employees, especially in law enforcement and in other areas, that have risked their own life to save someone else's life. And so this is why we called it that and dedicated that tree and called it The Tree of Heroes. And also there's a tree that is dedicated to the men and women that are serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan and risking their lives to protect this country, so we want to say thank you also to them. (Applause)
But this has been the second time I've been to this tree lighting here at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital and the tree is right up there on the roof, way up there where it belongs, high up there. And this is going to be great. We are going to all light this tree together here.
And let me tell you, Christmas is about exchanging gifts and it is about hope and this is why this tree is called "The Tree of Hope." And hope is about our hope for a brighter future and for a healthier future. That's what we all are hoping for, that our economy comes back, that people get jobs again, that people can stay in their homes and all of those things. That's what we are hoping for and praying for. This is what this Christmas season is all about. (Applause)
But when we talk about exchanging gifts -- it's the season of exchanging gifts -- the greatest gift that you can have is the gift of health -- the gift of health. It doesn't matter how rich you are or how poor you are. The first thing someone always will say is the most important thing to me is my health. And let me tell you something, this hospital behind me here will provide that health for the community. But this is going to be a gift not just on Christmas day; this is going to be a gift that they give to the community, to the people of this great, great city all year long, 365 days a year.
And this is why I think that we all have fought to reopen this hospital, because we all know in 2007 it closed. And we never want to look back, because it doesn't help us. We have to look forward. We want to look forward to the day when this opens and when it provides for thousands and thousands of patients great health and fitness so they walk out of that hospital feeling good again. This is why we are fighting for this.
And this is why I jumped into action as soon as it closed down. I said, "This cannot happen. We must reopen this hospital." This is when I started working together with Mark Ridley-Thomas and we joined forces. And we brought in the UC system and we brought in the county, we brought in the state, we brought in the federal government. We brought everyone, the community, everyone, together. And so we are fighting and fighting.
And there are many struggles, let me tell you. It's not an easy process, as anything in politics. Nothing is easy, because there are always 120 legislators; they all have their own opinions, as Mark knows. That's just the way it works. But we are in sync on this one thing here. We are in sync on many things but there is one thing we have been fighting for.
And so I just tell you that I cannot wait for this to open and I will come back to Christmas tree lightings here until it is open and much after that. So I can guarantee you that I will fight for the opening of this hospital even after I am through with my governorship because I am committed to this, because you deserve your own hospital and you deserve the greatest health.
Thank you very much. And I promise you, I'll be back. Thank you. (Applause)
You come on back, now, real soon. Give the Governor a big round of applause. (Applause)
Well, are you ready for the tree lighting countdown? (Applause) I thought you might be, because after that we're going to have -- the California Highway Patrol is going to give out some nice toys. (Applause) There's an age limit on those toys, for those of you who got excited.
But we're going to ask -- Halima Felton to come up. Halima is from the -- give her a big round of applause. (Applause) Halima is from the Barack Obama Charter School. (Applause) She's a 5th grader. Give her a big round of applause. (Applause)
And we're going to ask the Governor to come back as well and stand by Halima. Halima, you have your instructions? Mr. Harris? All right. Are you ready for that countdown? All right, join in with me. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!
There you go! (Applause)