WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has helped light the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House. Biden on Thursday remembered those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and credited the American people for the optimism he says he feels about the country. Biden also paid tribute to service members and thanked them for their sacrifices. It was Biden’s first time participating in the nearly 100-year-old tradition in the nation’s capital. Singer-actor LL Cool J hosted the program, which featured performances by Billy Porter, Chris Stapleton, H.E.R., Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LaBelle and Howard University’s gospel choir.