President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spent the 4th hosting "military heroes" and their families, along with administration staffers and their families at a White House barbecue and concert on the South Lawn.
More than 1,200 service members and family members were expected. Entertainment was provided by "The President's Own" Marine Band and Grammy-winning band fun. Threatened thunderstorms held off and the National Park Service's fireworks -- staged from the Reflecting Pool area several blocks southwest of the executive mansion -- went off without a hitch.
Obama told the gathering the White House had planned for a "proper Fourth of July celebration," with food on the grill, fireworks and "lots of music."
He lauded the service members for their service, and noted it was also Malia's birthday, "so she is appreciative that you're all going to be wishing her happy birthday as well."
And he paid tribute to the events of July 4, 1776, saying it began when a "small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please; that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us."
"It was bold and it was brave," Obama said. "And it was unprecedented, it was unthinkable. At that time in human history, it was kings and princes and emperors who made decisions."
His remarks echoed the ones he made in his weekly radio address, released on Thursday for the 4th.