Washington: How's it going, everybody? Are you hot?
This is how US President Barack Obama began his Independence Day address as over millions of Americans braved a scorching hot July 4 holiday without power.
The president, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, hosted a barbecue and concert yesterday on the White House South Lawn and mingled with service members, some in wheelchairs, and their families amid tents with lemonade and cotton candy stands.
Addressing the gathering, Obama, who is seeking re- election in November, tried to lift the mood at the party by saying he would be speaking briefly so as not to ruin a nice backyard barbecue.
"Now, the last thing anybody wants to do is to ruin a nice backyard barbecue with a long speech, so I'm going to be quick," he said amid applause.
"It is always such an honour for us to spend this holiday with members of our military and your extraordinary families. All of you represent what is best in America.
"So as your Commander-in-Chief -- but also as an American -- I want to invite all of you over to say one thing: thank you," Obama said.
"All the men and women who stand with us here this afternoon are an example of this generation of heroes -- this 9/11 Generation that has earned its place in history alongside the greatest generations," he said.
"So, Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Enjoy the fireworks. Get some hot dogs. God bless you. God bless your families. And God bless the United States of America," he said.
Nearly one million people went without power on Independence Day yesterday as utilities worked to restore service five days after severe storms hit the eastern US, wreaking havoc from Illinois to Ohio to Kentucky, and causing destruction in and around the capital Washington.
Some towns cancelled firework displays marking the national holiday, saying police and firefighters could not be spared as repair work continued.
The damage was mostly blamed on a meteorological phenomenon known as a derecho, which saw hurricane-force winds buffeted ahead of fast-moving thunderstorms.
The derecho brought down trees and power lines, leaving three million people without electricity in the wake of the storm.
The extreme heat, which continued over the following days, was blamed for 24 deaths in seven states. Two additional deaths were reported yesterday.
First Published: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 21:40