The PJ Tatler

Obama Toasts 'Deeply Personal' Bonds with African Leaders

President Obama toasted “the new Africa” last night at the large White House dinner to gather African leaders in town for the administration’s summit, pledging to commit “to our shared task to keep on working for the peace and prosperity and justice that all our people seek and that all our people so richly deserve.”

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

“We’re grateful for the ties of family. Of all the incredible moments of our trips to Africa, one of the most memorable was being able to bring Michelle, and later our little girls, to my father’s hometown in Kenya, where we were embraced by so many relatives.”

The president talked of walking “the steps of a painful past” in Africa, including the Ghana and Senegal ports where men and women in chains were shipped to the Americas.

“We’ve been inspired by Africans — ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things. Farmers boosting their yields, health workers saving lives from HIV/AIDS, advocates standing up for justice and the rule of law, courageous women asserting their rights, entrepreneurs creating jobs, African peacekeepers risking their lives to save the innocent,” Obama said.

“And both of us stand in awe of the extraordinary young Africans that we’ve met, not only across Africa, but most recently here in Washington just last week when we hosted our Mandela Washington Fellows from many of your countries. And those young people show the world that Africa has the talent and the drive to forge a new future. These are the tides of history, and the ties 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.”

He quoted the words of a song called “New Africa”: “Come together, New Africa / Work together / Keep on working, for Africa.”

Guests at the dinner included Guinea President Alpha Conde, leader of one of the countries that makes up the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, while Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma both stayed home instead of flying to Washington. Other guests include former President Jimmy Carter, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Robert De Niro, many members of Congress, and Valerie Jarrett along with her boyfriend Ahmad Rashad.