President Barack Obama recollected his African roots as he welcomed African leaders from more than 50 countries on the White House lawns for dinner.
This was one of the first time that the White House lawns was hosting such a large number of Heads of State for a dinner, a fact acknowledged by Obama himself in his toast remarks on Tuesday.
“This city, this house, has welcomed foreign 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,” Obama said.
Welcoming the guests leaders, Obama recollected his African roots.
“I stand before you as the President of the United States and a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa. The blood of Africa runs through our family. And so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal,” Obama said amidst applause.
The White House had invited some 400 guests for the dinner with leaders from more than 50 countries.
A few of them were Indian Americans including Master Card CEO Ajay Banga, USAID Administrator Raj Shah and entrepreneur Mayank Bhargava.
Among the other important persons invited for the occasion were the former president Jimmy Carter, World Bank President Jim Kim and several other members of the Cabinet.
“We are grateful for the ties of family,” Obama continued, describing his memories of bringing the First Lady Michelle Obama and his daughters to his father’s hometown in Kenya.
“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 also mentioned showing his daughters the jail cell of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
“We’ve been inspired by Africans, ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things.”
Obama 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,” he said.
“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,” he said.