President Obama Speaks at an Official Dinner in Kenya


President Obama:
Harabi ya jioni. (applause) President Kenyatta, the
lovely Madame First Lady — (applause) — distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen: I want to once again just express
my deepest gratitude to you and the Kenyan people for
the incredible hospitality you have shown to me and my
delegation, including the members of Congress who are
here today and are doing outstanding work. In my visits here as a
younger man, I could have never imagined the
outpouring of friendship that I feel today. And so I feel, like my
given African name, to be truly blessed. (applause) The presence of the members
of Congress who are here today, I think it describes
and expresses the deep support for a strong
partnership with Africa and with Kenya. We were able to get
the AGOA bill passed. And those of you who know
American politics — there aren’t too many things where
Republicans and Democrats agree these days. (laughter) But expanding trade and
investment, and deepening our relationship with Africa
is something that garnered bipartisan support. (applause) And it’s an
indication of how the American people feel. Part of what makes this a
special evening for me is the presence of my family
members who are here. My grandmother, Mama Sarah,
who told me I had to come back to Kenya. And when she says you should
do something, generally you have to do it. (laughter) I’ve told this story before
— the first time that I visited Kogelo, Auma and I
and my brothers were there. Mama Sarah speaks Swahili
and Luo, and I speak neither — (laughter) — and so Auma was
serving as a translator. And I think about a half
a day had passed before suddenly she turns to
Auma and says something. And Auma starts laughing,
and I say, what did she say? She says, he goes to
Harvard; if he’s so smart, how come he can’t talk
to his grandmother? (laughter) Which was a good point. My siblings are
here, aunts, uncles. And so, tonight, I welcome
all of them to a somewhat unusual Obama
family reunion. (applause) I suspect that some of
my critics back home are suggesting that I’m
back here to look for my birth certificate. (laughter and applause) That is not the case. (laughter) But what is true is, is that
obviously there are emotions to a visit like this. Memories come rushing back. When I was in college, and
my father was here, I wrote him a letter telling
him of my hope to visit. And he wrote me back, and he
said, “Dear Son, even if it is only for a few days, the
important thing is that you know your people.” Now, he died in an
accident before I was able to make that trip. But in fact, when I came,
I did get to know them, the people of Kenya. And although once again I’m
here only for a few days, I remain grateful for
that relationship. I’ve seen the resolve and
the determination to pull together, under a new
constitution, as one people. I’ve seen your dynamism, as
you’ve built the largest economy in East Africa. And I’ve seen the
resilience, as in the recent reopening of the Westgate
Mall, which shows that the spirit of the Kenyan
people cannot be broken. (applause) And I’ve seen it in the
friendship between our peoples, particularly
our young people. As many of you know, our
Mandela Fellows program invites promising African
youth to the United States so they can develop skills
and training, and forge relationships as future
leaders here in Africa. And we learn from
them, as well. And it’s one of the most
important ways that we invest in Africa’s future. It’s something I’m very
passionate about, personally. In fact, at this very
moment, as part of this program, there are 40 young
Kenyans across the United States living and working
and learning, but also sharing their Kenyan culture
with their American hosts. Americans are
learning Swahili. They’re eating
chapatti — (laughter) — and they’re listening
to Kenyan music. In California, they’ve
been dancing to Sura Yako. (applause) So here tonight, and
across the United States, Kenyans and Americans
are coming together. We’re understanding
each other better. We’re finding new
ways to partner. And I believe that if we
can build on what we’ve accomplished on this visit,
then we can achieve even more in the years to come
— for our people, for our beautiful lands, for
our freedom, for peace. I was reflecting on what
President Kenyatta said about the past and history. And our fathers were people
who lived at the same time, and went through
independence of this country at the same time, and took
different paths, obviously. My father was
significantly younger. And it’s true that it would
have been hard for them to imagine how their sons might
be sitting here today. (applause) But there’s an expression
that says we plant a tree not because we will enjoy
its shape, but because our children and
grandchildren will. (applause) And so I’d like to propose
a toast not only to this generation of Kenyans and
Africans, not only to future generations of Kenyans and
Africans and Americans, but also to our forefathers and
our foremothers who laid the groundwork, who planted the
seed so that we could enjoy a little bit of shape. To the people of Kenya
and to the people of the United States of America,
munga abariki Kenya.

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