Speaking to more than 40 African leaders assembled at the White House, President Obama said Tuesday night that he and his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters share a strong, personal bond with Africa and declared that the continent is “rising and so full of promise.”
“I stand before you as the president of the United States, a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa,” the president said as he delivered a toast just before dinner was served to the African leaders and an assortment of American dignitaries. “The blood of Africa runs through our family, so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal.”
Tuesday night’s dinner was a key event in this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, hailed as an unprecedented gathering of African leaders. The gathering has focused on everything from economic growth and food security to climate change and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
But Mr. Obama steered clear of those issues on Tuesday night. Instead, he spoke of the moving personal experiences of visiting his father’s hometown in Kenya with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia by his side.
The president referenced his visit to the late Nelson Mandela’s jail cell in South Africa. Mr. Obama frequently mentions Mandela as one of his greatest influences.
Mr. Obama also sounded an optimistic note, repeating a theme heard over and over during the summit: The future of Africa is bright despite the multitude of challenges facing the continent.
“I propose a toast to the new Africa,” the president said. “The Africa that is rising and so full of promise. To our shared task to keep on working for the peace and prosperity and justice that all our people seek, that all our people so richly deserve.”