Several hundred invited guests to the South White House lawn watched today as President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama welcomed the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, in their first official visit to the White House.
The arrival of Trudeau was heralded by a series of military ceremonies and the playing of the national anthems of both Canada and the United States. After a ceremonial review of the troops, Obama and Trudeau greeted onlookers and spoke.
President Obama went first, “Bonjour. On behalf of the American people, on behalf of Michelle and myself, it is my honor to welcome to the United States Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau, their beautiful children, and the quite good-looking Canadian delegation.
“It’s long been said that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your neighbors. Well, by virtue of geography, the United States and Canada are blessed to be neighbors. And by choice, we are steadfast allies and the closest of friends.”
President Obama then said he was proud to be the first American President to stand with a Canadian Prime Minister in which “[H]ealth care is not a privilege for a few but is now a right for all.”
The President also praised the diversity in both nations and gave a shout-out to Indigenous Peoples in both countries.
“[A]s two vast and vibrant societies, we reaffirm that our diversity is our strength—whether your family was among the first native peoples to live on these lands or refugees we welcomed just yesterday,” he said. “Whether you pray in a church or a synagogue, or a temple, or a mosque. Where, no matter what province or state you live in, you have the freedom to marry the person that you love.”
Obama then joked that the U.S. and Canada would never agree on whose beer was better or who was better at hockey. When Trudeau smiled and shook his head at that, Obama joked about the Stanley Cup being in the hands of a U.S. Hockey team, to groans and laughter from the crowd.
“Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?” asked Obama. “I’m sorry. Is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks? In case you Canadians were wondering, where is it?”
In his remarks,Trudeau thanked the President for a warm reception and also for being so powerful that he had organized the beautiful weather.
In the midst of discussing the desire to work closely to reduce trade barriers between the two countries, Trudeau used the opportunity to respond to Obama’s hockey remarks with a laugh.
“[S]peaking of exports, we know with certainty that there’s a high demand for Canadian goods down here,” he said. “A few that come to mind that President Obama just rightly recognized as being extraordinary contributors to the American success story is Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks.”
Trudeau ended with remarks of further appreciation.
“Our great countries have been friends a long time. We grew up together. And like all great enduring friendships, at our best, we bring out the best in one another. We could not be prouder of that past…On behalf of 36 million Canadians, I thank you all for your warm welcome. Now let’s get to work on shaping our shared future.”
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