May 21, 2009

Obama greets Steelers at White House

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers at the White House Thursday and helped them box up supplies for U.S. troops.

Now, I already told these guys, no matter how big they are, I am a (Chicago) Bears fan, Obama joked on the White House South Lawn. Obama lived in Chicago before taking office and still has a home on the South Side.

But it's no secret that I was pulling for the Steelers during the Super Bowl last year, and that's part of the reason why this is so much fun for me, he said.

This isn't me trying to have it both ways -- everybody knows I'm pretty serious about my sports teams -- but growing up in Hawaii when I was a kid, we didn't have a local football team, he said. And when I started playing and I started paying attention to football, it was guys like Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris and the Steel Curtain and Mean Joe Greene.

Those were the guys that were playing, and so I became a Steelers fan, Obama said.

Obama also singled out Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, who Obama named ambassador to Ireland.

I can tell you that I don't know anybody who is more of a gentleman, who is more loyal, who is more committed to excellence, than Mr. Rooney, Obama said.

And he's humble, Obama said to laughter.

Some 50 wounded U.S. troops from Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., were also in attendance.

Obama said he and the Steelers would work with the United Service Organizations Inc. to put together 3,000 care packages for our troops serving in harm's way.

The USO is a private, non-profit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. military.

We're going to give back to those who've given so much for us, Obama said. And I find that fitting and proper, a good way to kick off a weekend that serves to honor all the men and women who have worn the proud uniform of this country that we love.

Obama then helped pack care packages in assembly lines set up on the South Lawn destined for troops overseas."¨