Remarks by President Obama at India State Dinner
New Delhi, India
9:37 P.M. IST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good evening. President Mukherjee, Prime Minister Modi, distinguished guests -- on behalf of Michelle and myself, I want to extend our deepest thanks for the extraordinary hospitality that you’ve shown us here today. We feel your friendship -- your dosti. And I am deeply honored to be the first American President to join you in celebrating India’s Republic Day.
I also want to thank you for not making me dance -- again. (Laughter.) The last time we were here, we joined some children in Mumbai for Diwali. And we danced. It was pretty clear what the Indian press thought. One headline said, “President Obama Visits India.” The other said, “Michelle Obama Rocks India.” (Laughter.) It is true, Michelle is a better dancer than me.
Let me also thank my partner and friend, Prime Minister Modi. I’ve often said that my life story could only happen in America. But of course, Mr. Prime Minister, your story could only happen in India. Here this evening, we think back to all those years ago -- to your father selling tea in the train station, and your mother working at other families’ homes to support her own. And tonight, their son welcomes us as the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy.
Now, we all know about the Prime Minister’s legendary work ethic. He was explaining to me today how he only needed three hours’ sleep, which made me feel bad; I thought I was doing okay with five. (Laughter.) What I didn’t know until now is that he once survived an attack by a crocodile. So he’s tough. And he also has style. One of our newspapers back home wrote, “Move aside, Michelle Obama. The world has a new fashion icon.” (Laughter.) Tonight, I was thinking about wearing a Modi Kurta myself. And while I do not want to use a dinner like this to make United States policy, let me just say that given the Prime Minister’s advocacy at the United Nations, Michelle and I are looking forward to the first International Yoga Day.
Our visit reflects the deepest connections and long friendship between our peoples. One of America’s greatest poets was Walt Whitman, and more than a century ago he wrote a poem -- “Passage to India” -- in which he celebrated the technological ingenuity and human spirit that joins our nations. He wrote: “Seest though not God’s purpose from the first? The earth to be spann’d, connected by network, the people to become brothers and sisters.” Here, in our time, these words have come to pass.
India and America have spanned the Earth, connected and networked by technology and by family, including millions of Indian Americans, among them our nation’s first Indian American ambassador to India, Rich Verma. And in the shared work of our world, our purpose -- lifting up our fellow citizens, advancing human dignity -- we, as the poet predicted, have become brothers and sisters.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate Republic Day. We will honor the generations of Indians who built this nation through toil and tears and iron will. And at the end of the day, I’m told the band will play that hymn that was dear to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
And so I propose a toast, if I can get a glass -- oh, here we go. To the great partnership between our nations and the friendship -- the dosti -- between our peoples. Here in the eventide, Indians and Americans, let us know, in the darkness or day, in good times or bad, whenever one of us looks to the other, we will surely say, abide with me.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
9:42 P.M. IST