Remarks by President Obama and President Sall of Senegal in an Exchange of Toasts

Press Release

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: June 27, 2013
Location: Dakar, Senegal

PRESIDENT SALL: (As interpreted.) Your Excellency, Barack Obama; distinguished First Lady, Michelle Obama; distinguished First Lady of Senegal, Marieme Sall; distinguished members of the American delegation; distinguished Speaker of the Parliament; distinguished Prime Minister; Madame President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council; distinguished senior ministers, distinguished ministers; honorable members of Parliament; Your Excellencies, distinguished ambassadors; dear friends and dear guests.

Mr. President, three months after having warmly received me at the White House, you are visiting me with your wife, your children and the important delegation accompanying you. And you have honored us by choosing Senegal as your entry point to Africa for your first visit to the continent since your brilliant reelection last November.

In relationships between states, every choice conveys a symbol and a message. My fellow countrymen and myself, we understand and appreciate your visit as a token of friendship and esteem for us. This feeling, Mr. President, is mutual, and it is for you and for your great people.

(Speaks in English.) We welcome you, Mr. President, and First Lady Michelle Obama. We wish you and your delegation a pleasant stay in Senegal, the Land of Teranga.

(As interpreted.) Ties between the American and Senegalese people are ancient, robust, and trustworthy. And the circumstances of history have bequeathed common memories to us.

In 1776, when the American people started their historical struggles for their freedom, in the north of Senegal, some revolutionaries rebelled the same year for the same principles of justice and freedom against excesses committed by the authorities in place. In 1761, according to Johnson and Patricia Smith in "Africans in America," it was said that in 1761, a 7-year-old Senegalese girl embarked for a one-way trip. She disembarked in Boston, Phillis Wheatley, which was her slave name -- thanks to her creative genius, became the first known black poetess in the United States of America.

This was a (inaudible) in our common history, even in the dark hours of slavery. More than two centuries later, another trip has united us, and this time, as free citizens. And, Mr. President, you wrote this in your bestseller, "Dreams From My Father." It was in Spain, in a bus bound for Barcelona, you took a liking to one of my compatriots, Mr. Selle Dieng. I hope he is here in this room. Selle -- he's here. (Applause.) Thank you, Selle, and Mr. President.

So in this book of yours, you said that he told you about his wife he had left behind in Senegal and of his dream to earn enough money to bring her over. He offered coffee and water to you -- a coincidental meeting, a shared history, a small gesture of kindness, you say. This gesture of human fraternity expresses the values uniting Senegalese and Americans, definite and strong values -- faith in God, family and work, openness to the other, an attachment to democracy and freedom.

This is the reason why so many of my fellow countrymen feel so comfortable in your country and are successfully pursuing their American Dream. In Harlem, we have "Little Senegal" when you go to 16th Street. It's well known to all our compatriots. We would like to thank the American people for their tradition of hospitality.

I would like to also commend the excellent quality of our bilateral relations. Our two countries are cooperating for peace and a safer world rid of scourges of terrorism and cross-border crime. I commend your leadership, particularly in these times when the situation here in the Sahara has become a global threat and deserves special attention. I hope our countries can put together a joint strategy in response to this new challenge.

In the economic and social fields, we have a robust partnership with the commitment of the Peace Corps in Senegal for more than half a century, USAID's actions and the existence of instruments such as AGOA and the Millennium Challenge account. Mr. President, I cannot forget that during the pre-election turmoil, which our country went through in 2011 and 2012. The United States of America maintains their trust in the maturity and resilience of the Senegalese people and relentlessly supported our democratic tradition. We greatly appreciated this gesture of solidarity in between peoples with common values.

Today, as agreed to in Washington, I would like to confirm our will to forge ahead with you -- forge ahead for the promotion of democracy and good governance in the spirit of our commitments stemming from the last G8 Summit; forge ahead in opening new opportunities of partnership between our countries; forge ahead for the promotion of the youth for the growth and prosperity of our peoples in a safer world.

(Speaks in English.) Looking back to more than 50 years of commitment and achievement between our two countries, I am confident that even greater opportunities are lying ahead. And I want to tell you and the great American people that we are more than willing to go forward in our renewed partnership. And we are ready -- yes, we are ready and, yes, we can. (Laughter and applause.)

(As interpreted.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to raise a toast to the health and wellbeing of our illustrious guests -- President Barack Obama of the United States of America, the First Lady Michelle Obama -- to whom I'd like to pay my respects; to the health and well-being of their children and their delegation; and to the continuous prosperity of the friendly American people.

Long live the United States of America. Long live Senegal. Long live the friendship between Senegal and the United States of America. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: President Sall, Madame First Lady, distinguished guest and friends -- on behalf of myself and Michelle, our children, our entire delegation, we want to thank you for the incredible hospitality that you've shown us today. We have been deeply moved and are deeply appreciative of all the arrangements that you've made.

I am told that you have a tradition here of singing poets. Do not worry, I am not going to sing. (Laughter.) But I would like to quote from one of your greatest poets -- one of the world's greatest poets -- your first President, Léopold Senghor.

The year after Senegal achieved independence, President Senghor came to the White House and met with President Kennedy. And during his visit to the United States, President Senghor said, "Senegal is a small country, but it is a republic which is inspired by the principles of democracy."

And here in Senegal, we've seen -- I've seen personally -- the principles of democracy at work in this generation and I believe in future generations. Mr. President, I salute you and your administration for seeking what you have called "a new mindset, a new consciousness" -- government that upholds "the sanctity of the public good."

I've seen the principles of democracy in Senegal's commitment to human dignity. Michelle and I will never forget today's visit to Gorée Island, where we looked out that "door of no return." The world owes so much to Senegal for preserving this piece of history -- one of the world's great heritage sites.

And as I said at Gorée Island, it's a reminder of the potential in humanity that we can show one another, but it also I think reminds us of how vigilant we have to be in upholding the dignity and the rights of all people.

And, finally, I've seen the principle of democracy in the people of Senegal -- the citizens that I met with today who stood up for democracy; the young girls that Michelle met today who are busy shaping this nation -- just incredible young women -- because Senegal recognizes the value of women's leadership.

And I couldn't be here today if I didn't mention that today, back in the United States, is NBA draft day -- (laughter) -- and that there's going to be a team that makes a wise decision by drafting a favorite son of Senegal, Gorgui Dieng, who is an outstanding big man, and maybe the Bulls will get him. (Applause.)

So, Mr. President, I want to propose a toast to our gracious hosts, to our two great nations, to the abiding friendship between our peoples -- à votre santé. (Applause.)