Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in London, England

May 24, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II. Mr. President, I am delighted to welcome you and Mrs. Obama to London. Prince Philip and I are so glad that you are visiting the United Kingdom again.

We have fond memories of our first meeting during the G-20 conference in London in 2009. It also gave me much pleasure to welcome Mrs. Obama and your two daughters here almost 2 years ago.

Your visit to this country inevitably reminds us of our shared history, our common language, and our strong intellectual and cultural links. It also reminds us that your country twice came to the rescue of the free and democratic world when it was facing military disaster. On each occasion, after the end of those destructive wars, the generosity of the United States made a massive contribution to our economic recovery.

Today, the United States remains our most important ally, and our two nations contribute to the security and prosperity of our peoples and of the world through shared national interests.

But our relationship goes far beyond our military and diplomatic ties. In your Inaugural Address, you spoke to the American people of the values that lay at the heart of your Nation's success--honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism--and of the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions with which your Nation had met past challenges and would meet future ones too.

If I may say so, these values underscore much of the life of the United Kingdom also. Together with our alliance, they continue to guide our actions as we confront the challenges of a changing world.

It is unfortunate that there are so many troubles facing the world today. But we are encouraged that in most respects, our two countries see these problems in the same light. For this reason, we have been able to act together in fields as varied as science, research, and higher education, to find solutions or to at least make progress towards tackling so many of the social and economic difficulties that confront nations in all parts of the globe.

Entertainment may not be so obviously an example of our close ties, but it forms part of the lives of a great many of our people. Over the years, we have enjoyed some of America's most spectacular musical productions and any number of what we call films, which you might prefer to call movies. [Laughter] In return, British films and theatrical productions have achieved considerable success in your country. This exchange of people and projects has enlarged and invigorated our common language, although I think you will agree, we do not always use it in quite the same way. [Laughter]

Mr. President, I firmly believe that the strength of our links and many shared interests will continue to ensure that when the United States and the United Kingdom stand together, our people and other people of good will around the world will be more secure and can become more prosperous.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to celebrate the tried, tested, and yes, special relationship between our two countries. I, therefore, ask you now to join me in raising your glasses to the continued health, happiness, and prosperity of the people of the United States of America, and especially to the health of President and Mrs. Obama.

[At this point, a toast was offered, and the band played the American national anthem.]

President Obama. Your Majesty, thank you for your extraordinarily generous remarks, for the invitation you extended for our first state visit in Europe, and for the warm friendship that you've shown both Michelle and myself on both of our visits to Buckingham Palace.

I bring warm greetings from tens of millions of Americans who claim British ancestry, including me, through my mother's family. I bring warm greetings from Malia and Sasha, who adored you even before you let them ride on a carriage on the palace grounds. [Laughter]

Prime Minister Cameron, Mrs. Cameron, and distinguished guests, it is a great honor to join you again in this great country as we reaffirm the enduring bonds between our two nations and reinforce this special relationship.

I must say, though, this dinner is a humbling reminder of the fleeting nature of Presidencies and Prime Ministerships. Your Majesty's reign has spanned about a dozen of each, and counting. That makes you both a living witness to the power of our alliance and a chief source of its resilience.

Our alliance is a commitment that speaks to who we are. As Winston Churchill said on a visit to the United States, "Above all, among the English-speaking peoples, there must be the union of hearts based upon convictions and common ideals."

While our challenges have changed since Churchill's time, when we fought together to preserve our very democracies, our adherence to those values have not. Our relationship rests on common language, common history, common adherence to the rule of law, the rights of men and women--the very ideals born in this nation. And yet our relationship never rests.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I'm particularly grateful for the solidarity that the United Kingdom has shown to America over the past decade. From that day to this, you have been our closest partner in the struggle to protect our people from terrorist attacks and violent extremism around the world, despite very heavy sacrifices here. And allow me to pay tribute to the contributions of your military forces, which have stood shoulder to shoulder with us for decades.

And as we confront the challenges of the 21st century together, we can have confidence in the partnership that our two countries share, based on the rock-solid foundation built during Queen Elizabeth's lifetime of extraordinary service to her nation and to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast: To Her Majesty the Queen----

[The band began to play the British national anthem.]

----for the vitality of the special relationship between our peoples, and in the words of Shakespeare, "To this blessed plot, this Earth, this realm, this England."

To the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II. That's very kind.

Note: The President spoke at 8:47 p.m. at Buckingham Palace. In his remarks, he referred to Samantha G. Cameron, wife of Prime Minister Cameron. The Queen referred to her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a State Dinner Hosted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in London, England Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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