Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada at State Dinner
8:32 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good evening, everybody. Bonsoir. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House as we host Prime Minister Trudeau, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau and the Canadian delegation for the first official visit and state dinner with Canada in nearly 20 years. We intend to have fun tonight. But not too much. (Laughter.) If things get out of hand, remember that the Prime Minister used to work as a bouncer. (Laughter.) Truly. (Laughter.)
So tonight, history comes full circle. Forty-four years ago, President Nixon made a visit to Ottawa. And he was hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. (Applause.) At a private dinner, there was a toast. “Tonight, we’ll dispense with the formalities,” President Nixon said, “I’d like to propose a toast to the future Prime Minister of Canada -- Justin Pierre Trudeau.” (Laughter.) He was four months at the time. (Laughter.)
All these years later, the prediction has come to pass. Mr. Prime Minister, after today, I think it’s fair to say that, here in America, you may well be the most popular Canadian named Justin. (Laughter and applause.)
I said this morning that Americans and Canadians are family. And tonight, I want to recognize two people who mean so much to me and Michelle and our family. First of all, my wonderful brother-in-law, originally from Burlington, Ontario -- Konrad Ng. (Applause.) This is actually an interesting story, though, that I was not aware of -- Konrad indicated to me when we saw each other this afternoon that part of the reason his family was able to immigrate to Canada was because of policies adopted by Justin’s father. And so had that not happened, he might not have met my sister, in which case, my lovely nieces might not have been born. (Laughter.) So this is yet one more debt that we owe the people of Canada (Laughter.) In addition, a true friend and a member of my team who has been with me every step of the way -- he is from Toronto and Victoria, and also a frequent golf partner, Marvin Nicholson. (Applause.) So as you can see, they’ve infiltrated all of our ranks. (Laughter.)
Before I ever became President, when we celebrated my sister and Konrad’s marriage, Michelle and I took our daughters to Canada. And we went to Burlington and -- this is always tough -- Mississauga. (Laughter.) And then we went to Toronto and Niagara Falls. (Laughter.) Mississauga. I can do that. (Laughter.) And everywhere we went, the Canadian people made us feel right at home.
And tonight, we want our Canadians friends to feel at home. So this is not a dinner, it’s supper. (Laughter.) We thought of serving up some poutine. (Laughter.) I was going to bring a two-four. (Laughter.) And then we’d finish off the night with a double-double. (Laughter.) But I had to draw the line at getting milk out of a bag -- (laughter) -- this, we Americans do not understand. (Laughter.) We do, however, have a little Canadian whiskey. That, we do understand. (Laughter.)
This visit has been a celebration of the values that we share. We, as a peoples, are committed to the principles of equality and opportunity -- the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it if you try, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, in both of our countries.
And we see this in our current presidential campaign. After all, where else could a boy born in Calgary grow up to run for President of the United States? (Laughter and applause.) Where else would we see a community like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia welcoming Americans if the election does not go their way? (Laughter.) And to the great credit of their people, Canadians from British Columbia to New Brunswick have, so far, rejected the idea of building a wall to keep out your southern neighbors. (Laughter.) We appreciate that. (Laughter.) We can be unruly, I know.
On a serious note, this visit reminds us of what we love about Canada. It’s the solidarity shown by so many Canadians after 9/11 when they welcomed stranded American travelers into their homes. It’s the courage of your servicemembers, standing with us in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. It’s the compassion of the Canadian people welcoming refugees -- and the Prime Minister himself, who told those refugees, “You’re safe at home now.”
Justin, we also see Canada’s spirit in your mother’s brave advocacy for mental health care -- and I want to give a special welcome to Margaret Trudeau tonight. (Applause.) And we see Canada’s spirit in Sophie -- a champion of women and girls, because our daughters deserve the same opportunities that anybody’s sons do.
And this spirit reminds us of why we’re all here -- why we serve. Justin, Sophie, your children are still young. They are adorable and they still let you hug them. (Laughter.) When we first spoke on the phone after your election, we talked not only as President and Prime Minister, but also as fathers. When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just seven. And they grow up too fast. This fall, Malia heads off to college. And I’m starting to choke up. (Laughter.) So I’m going to wind this -- it was in my remarks -- (laughter) -- and I didn’t -- I can’t do it. It’s hard. (Laughter.)
But there is a point to this, though, and that is that we’re not here for power. We’re not here for fame or fortune. We’re here for our kids. We’re here for everybody’s kids -- to give our sons and our daughters a better world. To pass to them a world that’s a little safer, and a little more equal, and a little more just, a little more prosperous so that a young person growing up in Chicago or Montreal or on the other side of the world has every opportunity to make of their life what they will, no matter who they are or what they look like, or how they pray or who they love.
Justin, I believe there are no better words to guide us in this work than those you once used to describe what your father taught you and your siblings -- to believe in yourself. To stand up for ourselves. To know ourselves, and to accept responsibility for ourselves. To show a genuine and deep respect for each other and for every human being.
And so I would like to propose a toast -- to the great alliance between the United States and Canada; to our friends, Justin and Sophie; to the friendship between Americans and Canadians and the spirit that binds us together -- a genuine and deep and abiding respect for each and every human being. Cheers.
(A toast is offered.)
PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: Dear friends, Mr. President, Barack, Michelle, all of you gathered here, it is an extraordinary honor for me to be here with you tonight. Thank you so much for the warm welcome you’ve extended to Canada and to the Canadian delegation, and to Sophie and me, personally.
It’s incredibly touching to be able to be here not just as a couple, Sophie and I, but to have been able to bring our families down as well. Sophie’s mom and dad, Estelle and Jean -- get a load of Estelle, I’m looking forward to the future with Sophie. (Laughter.) And, of course, my own mother, Margaret, whose last State Dinner here was in 1977. So it’s wonderful to have you here.
It’s also touching to meet Malia and Sasha, who are here at their first State Dinner. And quite frankly, the memories for me of being a kid and not being old enough to attend these kinds of events with my father almost makes me wish I had gone through my teenage years as a child of a world leader -- but not quite. (Laughter.) I admire you very much, both of you, for your extraordinary strength and your grace, through what is a remarkable childhood and young adulthood that will give you extraordinary strength and wisdom beyond your years for the rest of your life. The one thing that you have received from your extraordinary parents is the tools to be able to handle the challenges and the opportunities in front of you. So thank you very much for joining us tonight. (Applause.)
In thinking about what I wanted to say this evening, I came across a quote from President Truman, who shared these words with the Canadian Parliament nearly 70 years ago. He said that Canada’s relationship with the United States did not develop spontaneously. It did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography, but was “compounded of one part proximity, and nine parts good will and commonsense.”
It is that enduring good will and commonsense that I believe defines our relationship to this day. It’s what makes our constructive partnership possible. It’s what allows us to respectfully disagree and remain friends and allies on the few occasions we do. For example I would argue that it’s better to be the leader of a country that consistently wins Olympic gold medals in hockey. (Laughter and applause.) President Obama would likely disagree. And yet, you still invited us over for dinner. (Laughter.) Because that’s what friends do. (Laughter.)
Because, now that I think of it, we’re actually closer than friends. We’re more like siblings, really. We have shared parentage, but we took different paths in our later years. We became the stay-at-home type -- (laughter) -- and you grew to be a little more rebellious. (Laughter.) I think the reason that good will and commonsense comes so easily is because we are Canadians and Americans alike, guided by the same core values. Values like cooperation and respect. Cooperation because it keeps us safe and prosperous. And respect because it’s the surest path to both safeguarding the world we share and honoring the diverse people with whom we share it.
When it comes to security, for example, we agree that our countries are stronger and the world is safer when we work together. For more than half a century, we’ve joined forces to protect our continent. And we’ve been the closest of allies overseas for even longer, fighting together on the beaches of France, standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners in NATO, and now confronting violent extremism in the Middle East.
In every instance, we realize that our concerns were better addressed together than alone, and together, we have realized the longest, most peaceful, and most mutually beneficial relationship of any two countries since the birth of the nation state. It’s a relationship that doesn’t just serve its own interests -- it serves the entire world. Canadians and Americans also value economic interdependence, because we know that it brings greater prosperity for all of us.
Over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border every day -- evidence of one of the largest and most mutually beneficial trading relationships in the world. And one of our most popular exports to the United States, and I need you to stop teasing him, has been another Justin. (Laughter.) Now, no, no, that kid has had a great year. (Laughter.) And of course, leave it to a Canadian to reach international fame with a song called “Sorry.” (Laughter and applause.)
Together, Canada and the U.S. negotiated trade agreements that have expanded opportunities for our businesses, created millions of good, well-paying jobs for our workers, and made products more affordable for more Canadian and American families. We must never take that partnership for granted, and I can promise you that my government never will.
But nor should we forget that our responsibilities extend beyond our ruling borders and across generations, which means getting rid of that outdated notion that a health environment and a strong economy stand in opposition to one another. And it means that when we come to issues like climate change, we need to acknowledge that we are all in this together. Our children and grandchildren will judge us not by the words we said, but by the actions we took -- or failed to take.
If we truly wish to leave them a better world than the one we inherited from our own parents -- and I know, Mr. President, that you and the First Lady want this as strongly as Sophie and I do -- we cannot deny the science. We cannot pretend that climate change is still up for debate. (Speaks French.)
Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership -- your global leadership on the pressing issue of the environment and climate change. (Applause.)
And finally, we believe -- Canadians and Americans -- in the fundamental truth that diversity can be a source of strength. That we are thriving and prosperous countries not in spite of our differences but because of them. Canadians know this. It’s why communities across the country welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past four months. (Applause.) And not as visitors or temporary citizens, but as Canadians. But of course, Americans understand this, too. It’s why each generation has welcomed newcomers seeking liberty and the promise of a better life. It’s what has made America great over the past decades.
We know that if we seek to be even greater, we must do greater things -- be more compassionate, be more accepting, be more open to those who dress differently or eat different foods, or speak different languages. Our identities as Canadians and Americans are enriched by these differences, not threatened by them.
On our own, we make progress. But together, our two countries make history. Duty-bound, loyal, and forever linked, whatever the future holds, we will face it together. Neighbors, partners, allies, and friends. This is our experience and our example to the world.
Barack, thank you for all that you have done these past seven years to preserve this most important relationship. May the special connection between our two countries continue to flourish in the years to come, and may my grey hair come in at a much slower rate than yours has. (Laughter.)
And with that, on behalf of 36 million Americans, 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.)
8:54 P.M. EST