State Dinner for Prime Minister Cameron

The President:
Good evening, everyone.
Please have a seat. Welcome to the White House. I was just telling the Prime
Minister that, so far, the evening has been successful
because I have not stepped on Michelle’s train. (laughter) My main goal this evening. Michelle and I could not be more
honored that you could join us as we host our great friends —
the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and
his remarkable wife, Samantha. You can give them a round
of applause — why not? (applause) As I said this morning,
this visit also gives us an opportunity to return the
gracious hospitality that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth,
as well as David and Samantha and all the British people
showed us during our visit to London last year. And I know Michelle looks
forward to returning. Because, as she
announced yesterday, she will be leading the
U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies of the
Summer Olympics in London. (applause) I am jealous. (laughter) Now, I’m so grateful for
all the time that David and I have had together. But as we’ve learned, you can
never tell how things will get reported as a consequence
of our interactions. When we met two years
ago, we exchanged beers from our hometowns. One news story said:
“David Cameron and Barack Obama cemented their
special relationship — by hitting the bottle.” (laughter) When we had a barbeque at
Downing Street for some of our servicemembers, David
and I rolled up our sleeves, threw away the aprons, decided
to flip the burgers ourselves. One reporter called it a
“brave and foolish move.” (laughter) Another expressed amazement at
our “surprising competence.” (laughter) Michelle and Samantha
often remark the same way. (laughter) And finally, when David and I
got beat pretty badly in table tennis by some
local London kids, one newspaper asked the head
coach of the British Olympic women’s team to critique
our performance. Obama, the coach
said, “talked a lot.” (laughter) David “overhits the ball.” (laughter) Both of them — I’m quoting here
— “looked a little confused.” (laughter) But in moments like that, and
in all of our interactions — including today — I’ve
learned something about David. In good times and in bad, he’s
just the kind of partner that you want at your side. I trust him. He says what he does,
and he does what he says. And I’ve seen his character. And I’ve seen his commitment to
human dignity, during Libya. I’ve seen his resolve, his
determination to get the job done, whether it’s righting
our economies or succeeding in Afghanistan. And I will say
something else, David. All of us have seen how you, as
a parent, along with Samantha, have shown a measure of strength
that few of us will ever know. Tonight, I thank you for
bringing that same strength and solidarity to our partnership —
even if you do overhit the ball. (laughter) We are by no means the first
President and Prime Minister to celebrate the deep and abiding
bonds between our people. There has been no shortage
of words uttered about our special relationship. And I was humbled to offer
my own last year when I had the opportunity to address
Parliament in Westminster Hall. So, rather than words, I’d
like to leave you tonight with two simple images. They’re from different times
and places, decades apart. But they’re moments, I think,
that reveal the spirit of our alliance and the character
of our countries. The first is from the Blitz,
when, month after month, the British people braved
the onslaught from the sky. And one of those most enduring
images from those days is of the London skyline,
covered in smoke, with one thing shining through
— the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, tall and
proud and strong. The other image we know from
our own lives — from that awful September day, that
unforgettable picture of the Manhattan skyline,
covered in smoke and dust, with one thing shining through
— our Statue of Liberty, tall and proud and strong. In those two moments I think you
see all you need to know about who we are and what brings
us together tonight. In war and in peace, in times of
plenty and times of hardship, we stand tall and proud
and strong, together. And as free peoples committed to
the dignity of all human beings, we will never apologize
for our way of life, nor waver in its defense. It’s why David’s grandfather
fought alongside us Yanks after D-Day; why my grandfather
marched across Europe in Patton’s army. It’s why tonight, at dusty
bases in Afghanistan, both American and British
soldiers are getting ready to go on patrol, like
generations before them, shoulder to shoulder. It’s why our diplomats and
development workers are side by side, standing with the
activists who dare to demand their rights, save a child
from drought or famine. It’s why leaders of our two
countries can embrace the same shared heritage and the promise
of our alliance — even if we come from different
political traditions; even if the Prime Minister is
younger than nearly 200 years of his predecessors; even if
the President looks a little different than his predecessors. And David, it’s why, tonight,
our young children — and children across our
countries — can sleep well, knowing that we’re doing
everything in our power to build a future that is
worthy of their dreams. So, in closing, let me
just say that I intended to make history tonight. I thought that I could be the
first American President to make it through an entire visit of
our British friends without quoting Winston Churchill. (laughter) But then I saw this great
quote and I thought, “Come on, this is Churchill!” (laughter) So I couldn’t resist. It was December 1941, and the
attack on Pearl Harbor had finally thrust America into war,
alongside our British friends. And these were the words Sir
Winston spoke to his new American partners: “I will say
that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some
great purpose and design is being worked out here below,
of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants.” And so I’d like to propose a
toast: To Her Majesty the Queen, on her Diamond Jubilee;
to our dear friends, David and Samantha; and to
the great purpose and design of our alliance. May we remain, now and always,
its faithful servants. Cheers, everyone. (a toast is offered) David. (applause) Prime Minister Cameron:
President Obama, First Lady,
ladies and gentlemen: It is a tremendous honor to
be here this evening. And I want to thank you for
putting on such a great dinner, and for making our visit so
special over the last two days. And thank you also for those
strong and beautiful words that you’ve just spoken. Now, Michelle, I’m
sure that, like Sam, you often wonder what happens
when your husband goes for a night out with the guys. (laughter) So maybe I should come
clean about last night. (laughter) We went to basketball and we
had a real man-to-man chat. Barack tried to confuse me by
talking about bracketology — (laughter) — but I got my own back by
running him gently through the rules of cricket. (laughter) The truth is we have to have
a guys’ night out because so often we find we are
completely overshadowed by our beautiful wives. (applause) As I rolled into bed last
night, I said, “Samantha, do you want to hear about what
I got up to on this great guys’ night out?” And she — she’s not too
impressed by these things. She said, “Well, everything
you did was on television. You were surrounded by the
presidential bodyguard, so presumably you didn’t
get up to anything.” (laughter) Now, both Barack and I have said
a lot today about the importance of the relationship between our
two countries and our peoples. Like my predecessors, I’m proud
of our essential relationship and of Britain’s strong
national bond with the United States of America. I feel it in my bones. Now, there is, of course a great
history of close relationships between U.S. Presidents and
British Prime Ministers. Importantly, these have been
regardless of the political parties they happen
to represent. Her Majesty the Queen is a
great authority on the matter. She has seen — and she likes to
tell me this — no fewer than 12 British Prime Ministers and 11
American Presidents during her time on the throne. But I’m sure everyone here
would want to pay tribute to her incredible service
and selfless duty in this, her special Diamond
Jubilee year. (applause) Now, Her Majesty’s first Prime
Minister was, of course, Winston Churchill, a regular
guest here at the White House. I’m not going to
quote from Churchill, I’m going to quote about
Churchill — because it seems his visits were not always
the easiest experience for his American hosts. As Roosevelt’s secretary wrote
after one visit: “Churchill is a trying guest. He drinks like a fish. He smokes like a chimney. He has irregular routines,
works nights, sleeps days, and turns the
clocks upside down.” And for those of you who wonder
why the British Prime Minister now stays at Blair House
rather than the White House — (laughter) — I simply observe this. We all know the story of Winston
Churchill famously found naked in his bath by
President Roosevelt. This happened while he stayed
at the White House in December 1941, and the federal government
bought Blair House in 1942. (laughter) Now, for every genuine
presidential-prime ministerial friendship, there have been some
— I think we could call them — total disconnects. Edward Heath and Richard Nixon
took personal awkwardness with each other to new and
excruciating levels. (laughter) And yet, despite this, Richard
Nixon arranged for someone to pay for the swimming pool at
the Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers. Incidentally, this swimming pool
now has a serious and possibly terminal leak. (laughter) So I hope you won’t find it
amiss as I say here in the White House, for the
first time in 40 years, these words: It is time
to call in the plumbers. (laughter) Now, turning to Obama-Cameron. As fellow parents, Barack
and Michelle have both been personally very
kind to Sam and me. And as fellow leaders,
we’ve struck up, I believe, a really good partnership. It is frank and honest. We talk through issues
very rationally. We don’t need to remind each
other of the basic threats that we face; we know them. But there are three things about
Barack that really stand out for me: strength, moral
authority, and wisdom. Strength, because Barack has
been strong when required to defend his national interests. Under President
Obama’s leadership, America got bin Laden. (applause) And together with British
and coalition forces, America has fundamentally
weakened al Qaeda. The President says what he
will do and he sticks to it. I’ll never forget that
phone call on Libya, when he told me exactly what
role America would play in Libya, and he delivered his side
of the bargain to the letter. We delivered our side
of the bargain, too. And let us all agree that the
world is better off without bin Laden, but the world is better
off without Qaddafi, too. (applause) Moral authority, because Barack
understands that the means matter every bit as
much as the ends. Yes, America must
do the right thing, but to provide moral leadership,
America must do it in the right way, too. The first President I studied at
school was Theodore Roosevelt. He talked of speaking softly
and carrying a big stick. That is Barack’s approach. And in following it, he has
pressed the reset button on the moral authority of
the entire free world. Wisdom, because Barack has not
rushed into picking fights, but is steward of
America’s resources of hard and soft power. He’s taken time to make
considered decisions, drawing down troops from Iraq
and surging in Afghanistan. He’s found a new voice for
America with the Arab people. And at home, he’s recognized
that in America, as in Britain, the future depends on making
the best of every citizen. Both our nations have
historically been held back by inequality. But now there’s a determined
effort in both our countries — most notably through education
reform — to ensure that opportunity is truly
available for all. Half a century ago, the
amazing courage of Rosa Parks, the visionary leadership
of Martin Luther King, and the inspirational actions
of the civil rights movement led politicians to write
equality into the law and make real the promise of
America for all her citizens. But in the fight for justice
and the struggle for freedom, there is no end, because there
is so much more to do to ensure that every human being can
fulfill their potential. That is why our generation faces
a new civil rights struggle, to seek the prize of the future
that is open to every child as never before. Barack has made this one of
the goals of his presidency, the goal he’s pursuing
with enormous courage. And it is fitting that a man
whose own personal journey defines the promise and
potential of this unique nation should be working
to fulfill the hopes of his country in this way. Barack, it is an honor to
call you an ally, a partner, and a friend. You don’t get to choose the
circumstances you have to deal with as a President
or a Prime Minister. And you don’t get to choose
the leaders that you have to work with. But all I can say is that it is
a pleasure to work with someone with moral strength,
with clear reason, and with fundamental decency in
this task of renewing our great national alliance for today and
for the generations to follow. And with that, I propose a
toast: To the President, to the First Lady, and to
the people of the United States of America. Cheers. (a toast is offered) (applause)

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *