THE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House. I want to start by acknowledging your outstanding chair, Christine Gregoire, for her wonderful work -- (applause) -- and your vice chair, Dave Heineman, for his wonderful work. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I want to welcome some of you back, and I want to welcome those who are here for the first time. I know some of you may be confused and think this is the Oscars. (Laughter.) There are some similarities. First of all, everybody looks spectacular. And the second thing is, if I speak too long the music will start playing. (Laughter.) So I'm going to be very brief.
I know that the last couple of years have not been easy in a lot of your states. People have been struggling. Folks have lost jobs. Businesses have shuttered. We went through the toughest recession since the Great Depression. And nobody has felt it more than folks back home, and you see it each and every day. You have to respond in ways that go beyond just ideology or rhetoric.
The thing about governors is you're in charge and people know where to find you, and they expect you to help them during tough times. And many of you over the last two years have done extraordinary work. Many of you are expected for the next two years, next four years, or however long it may be, to do extraordinary work.
The main message I want to deliver tonight, in addition to asking you to have some fun this evening, is to know that you've got a partner here in the White House. If you look around the room, we come from a lot of different parts of the country and people may have different perspectives, but one thing that we all absolutely share is the belief in the American Dream and the confidence that when our people get opportunities, they've got the ingenuity and the stick-to-it-ness and the drive to succeed.
And our job is to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that each child gets a good education; that somebody who has a great idea is able to start a business and run with it; that we're looking after our people, including those who are most vulnerable; and that we're going to be bequeathing to the next generation the kind of America that will make us proud and assuring that the 21st century will be the American century just like the 20th century was.
We can't do that by ourselves. There's extraordinary diversity among our states, and that's a great strength. That's why our federal system is the laboratory for democracy, because in each of your states you guys are trying all kinds of things. And oftentimes your best ideas end up percolating up and becoming models and templates for the country.
But we're also one nation and our goal has to be to find ways to find common ground and to work together, and I'm confident that we can do that moving forward.
So I want to propose a toast: Not only to all the governors who are here, but also to all their spouses, who put with life in politics. (Laughter.) It's not always easy, but I hope your families, given all the sacrifices you're making, feel that it's worth it, because I certainly believe that the work that you're doing each and every day is making an extraordinary contribution to our country.
Thank you very much. Cheers.
(An exchange of toasts is offered.)
And with that, I'd like Christine to come up and offer a few words, as well.
GOVERNOR GREGOIRE: Well, thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of all of the governors of our great country and their guests, we are delighted to be here. I want to thank you for your tremendous leadership through what is a very, very challenging time for our country.
And if I might, I'd like to say a big thanks to our First Lady Michelle Obama, who has left a wonderful message across America that we stand with our men and women in service and we support our military families. (Applause.)
Mr. Vice President, thank you for being our partner, for taking our calls and calling us, and making sure that we are there for you and you are there for us. And to Dr. Jill Biden, thank you for being a symbol for all of the people in America for what higher education really means.
And to all of you who are members of the Cabinet, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for reaching out, listening to us.
So, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the nation's governors, I propose a toast to the President of the United States. Sir, we stand with you as you deliver a message across the world of peace and democracy, as you bring back to America the kind of economic recovery we all need, and as you give hope to all of the children of America.
To the President of the greatest nation in the world, President Obama. Thank you.
(An exchange of toasts is offered.)
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Let's start dinner, and everybody have fun.