President Obama’s toast:
Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat.
On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. This city, this house has welcomed more envoys and leaders for more than two centuries. But never before have we hosted a dinner at the White House like this, with so many presidents, so many prime ministers all at once. So we are grateful for all the leaders who are in attendance. We are grateful to the spouses. I think the men will agree that the women outshine us tonight in the beautiful colors of Africa. Tonight, we are making history, and it’s an honor to have all of you here.
I stand before you as the president of the United States, a proud American. But I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa. The blood of Africa runs through our family, so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal.
We’re grateful for the ties of family — of all the incredible moments of our trips to Africa, one of the most memorable was being able to bring Michelle and later our little girls to my father’s hometown in Kenya, where we were embraced by so many relatives. We’ve walked the steps of a painful past, in Ghana at Cape Coast Castle, in Senegal at Gorée Island, standing with our daughters in those doors of no return to which so many Africans passed in chains. We’ll never forget bringing our daughters to Robben Island to the cell from which Madiba showed the unconquerable strength and dignity of an African heart.
We’ve been inspired by Africans, ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things. Farmers boosting their yields. Health workers saving lives from HIV/AIDS. Advocates standing up for justice and the rule of law. Courageous women asserting their rights. Entrepreneurs creating jobs. African peacekeepers risking their lives to save the innocent. And both of us stand in awe of the extraordinary young Africans that we’ve met. Not only across Africa, but most recently here in Washington. Just last week, when we hosted our Mandela/Washington fellows from many of your countries, and those young people show the world that Africa has the talent and the drive to forge a new future. These are the ties of history and ties of family that bring us together this week.
These are the citizens who look to us to build a future worthy of their dreams, especially those who dream of giving their children a future without war or injustice, without poverty or disease. They are in our prayers tonight. And also with us are the words of a song, “New Africa,” that inspired so many across the continent, and that Michelle and I first heard last year in Senegal: “Come together, New Africa, work together, keep on working for Africa.”
And so I propose a toast to the new Africa. The Africa that is rising and so full of promise and to our shared task to keep on working for the peace and prosperity and justice that all our people seek and that all our people so richly deserve.
Enjoy your dinner everybody.
Follow more of the big dinner’s news here from Lionel Richie’s pseudo-African song lyrics to what 1600 Penn. will have on the menu.
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