What is going on at the White House right now — a STATE DINNER! Click to read

Subject: In-Town Print Pool Report 8


President Obama opened the dinner with a toast to “the new Africa.”


Guests at the event total around 400, according to the guest list.


Obama’s remarks ran just under five minutes. Here are some highlights:


“Never before have we hosted a dinner at the White House like this, with so many presidents.”


“So we are grateful to all the leaders who are in attendance. We are grateful to the spouses. I think the men will agree that the woman 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. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa,” Obama said drawing applause.


“The blood of Africa runs through our family, so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents are deeply personal.”


“We are grateful for the ties of family,” Obama continued, describing his memories of bringing Michelle and his daughters to his father’s hometown in Kenya.


Obama referenced the slave trade. “We’ve walked the steps of a painful past in Ghana,” Senegal and elsewhere, he said, “standing with our daughters in those wards of no return, where so many Africans passed in chains.”


He mentioned bringing his daughters to Nelson Mandela’s jail cell in South African.


“We’ve been inspired by Africans, ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things.”


He said he and Michelle “stand in awe of the extraordinary young Africans that we’ve met.”


He then described several archetypes of ordinary Africans, including “farmers boosting their yields” and “health workers saving lives from HIV, AIDS.”


“These are the tides of history and the tides 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,’” Obama said, noting he and Michelle first heard it last year in Senegal during his trip to the continent.


“Come together new Africa,” Obama said. “Work together. Keep on working for Africa.”


“So I propose a toast to the new Africa. The Africa that is rising and so full of promise. To our shared task to keep on working for the peace and prosperity and justice that all our people seek, that all our people so richly deserve. Cheers. Enjoy your dinner everybody.”


The White House has repeatedly called this week’s summit unprecedented. That view got an endorsement Tuesday from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), not always a White House booster, who, as he left the bar, told your pooler: “This is one of most exciting things I’ve ever seen.”


“To think that the son of an African man is hosting this event in a house built by African slaves,” Rangel said, trailing off.


Below, from the White House, is a list of those seated that the head table with President Obama. Note the presence of actor Robert De Niro and his wife, Grace, as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Bloomberg Philanthropies, with the Commerce Department, is hosting this week’s summit.


The current Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, also attended the dinner. He and his wife are seated at a table toward the back of the tent.


President Ali Bongo Ondimba – Gabonese Republic Sylvia Bongo Ondimba – Gabonese Republic Michael Bloomberg Diana Taylor Jacob Zuma – President of South Africa Nompumelelo Zuma – South Africa Grace De Niro Robert De Niro Navinchandra Ramgoolam – Prime Minister of Mauritius Strive Masiyiwa Tsitsi Masiyiwa Uzo Aduba Nonyem Aduba Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz – President of Mauritania Mariam Ahmed Dit Tekber – Mauritiania President Jimmy Carter Boni Yayi – President of Benin Wanja Muguongo Lorna Dias Yordanos Asgedom Meb Keflezighi Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini Zuma – Chairperson of the African Union Commission.



Dan Friedman

Washington Correspondent

New York Daily News