President Obama and the First Lady Attend the State Dinner with Prime Minister Renzi


President Obama: Good
evening, everybody! Buonasera! On behalf of Michelle and
myself, welcome to the White House. And welcome to the final
state dinner of my presidency. (applause) But in the immortal words of
a great Italian-American, Yogi Berra — “it ain’t
over till it’s over.” (applause) And so we have a wonderful
evening ahead of us as we celebrate the great alliance
between the United States and Italy with our great
friends, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi — (applause) — and Mrs. Agnese Landini. (applause) Now, I have to say this
is a remarkable crowd. I will confess that, at
first, I was a little nervous about this dinner. After all, Matteo is called
Il Rottamatore — The Scrapper, The
Demolition Man. (laughter) And Roberto Benigni is here
as well, and he has promised not to jump on the tables. (laughter) Ask any Italian, or
Italian-American, and they’ll tell you that the
dinners can get somewhat animated. People can get excited
— especially if your grandmother thinks you’re
not eating enough. And so Michelle and I
decided to just think of this as a typical Italian
Sunday dinner — surrounded by family and great friends,
paisans — and pasta. And tonight, we’re reminded
that American democracy has been graced by the
touch of Italy. Our declaration that “all
men are created equal” was penned by Thomas Jefferson,
and it was a concept shared by his friend, also from
Florence, Filippo Mazzei. We stand before the Lincoln
Memorial and see the work of the Piccirilli brothers. We look up at the
dome of the U.S. Capitol and marvel at
the touch of Brumidi. Then again, some days our
presidential campaigns can seem like something
out of Dante’s Inferno. (laughter and applause) Most of all, we see the
spirit of Italy — and the friendships between our
people — in so many proud Italian-Americans. I suspect that many of you
here tonight are thinking of your own families —
parents, grandparents, great-grandparents — who
left the old country, who toiled and sacrificed, and
gave everything they had so that the next generation
could succeed. Your presence here tonight
shows that America is a place where if you work
hard, no matter what you look like, what your last
name is, how many vowels you have in your name, you
can make it if you try. And even if we are not
Italian-American, or Mets fans, we can celebrate that
Mike Piazza is finally in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (laughter) I also want to take this
occasion to once again thank my friend, Matteo. He may be the youngest prime
minister in modern Italian history — he makes me feel
old, which is unfortunate. (laughter) When I came in I was the
young guy — now he’s the young guy. (laughter) But from the first time we
met, I could see that he represented the energy and
the optimism, the vision and the values that can carry
Italy, and Europe, forward. He is, as you say in
Italy, buono come il pane. Matteo, I cannot thank you
enough for your excellent partnership as we’ve worked
to advance the security and prosperity of our citizens
and the dignity of people around the world. I understand that when you
were growing up, your mother would tell you stories about
Robert Kennedy’s commitment to justice and that she
would end by telling you — “Matteo, fight.” As you fight for the cause
of reform, know that we stand with you. I believe that Italy, and
the world, will continue to benefit from your leadership
for many years to come. Now, one of the reasons that
I’m so confident that Matteo will continue to make
outstanding contributions is because he has an
outstanding partner in Agnese. Our wives keep us humble. As our Italian friends know,
Matteo’s first claim to fame — when he was just 19 years
old — was he was on Italy’s version of Wheel of Fortune. (laughter) This is a true story. And Agnese points out that
several of the sweaters and the suits that he wore were
too big — which is an affront to Italian fashion. (laughter) Matteo may deny it, but
there’s video and you can judge for yourself. (laughter) Georgio Armani is here, and
he would be ashamed to know that the Italian Prime
Minister used to wear things like this. (laughter) Now, you are not alone,
because when Michelle was in Milan for last year’s Expo,
she spoke with some young people about the importance
of eating slowly and savoring your food — unlike
President Obama, who she said, sometimes
“shovels” his food down. (laughter) Which is true. (laughter) So the point is that Matteo
and I both married up. And because of our wives, we
eat better, we dress better, we are better. And we thank you both. (applause) In closing, I just want to
reminisce about my last visit to Rome. Thanks to Matteo’s Ministry
of Culture, I had the opportunity to
visit the Coliseum. And one of the perks of
being President is you can go to the Coliseum and
nobody else is there. It was late in the day. It was quiet. The sun was going down. As I walked across those
ancient stones — worn by the history of 2,000 years
— it was a humbling reminder of our
place here on Earth. In the grand sweep of time,
each of us is here only for a brief moment. So many of the things that
we focus on each day — the political ups and downs, the
successes and the setbacks — those things
are fleeting. What matters in the
end is what we build. What matters is what we
leave behind — the things that will endure long
after we are gone. As the poet Virgil reminded
us, “fortune favors the bold.” And so I want to propose a
toast — to the enduring alliance between the United
States and Italy; to our friends, Matteo and Agnese;
and to the friendship between the Americans
and the Italians. In pursuit of the world
we can build for future generations, may we always
be bold; may fortune smile upon us. Salute. Cheers.

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