Obama Offers Rare Personal Toast on Africa

Speaks of family history at US-Africa Summit dinner

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2014 8:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama isn't known for getting particularly personal at the podium, Politico notes, but in a speech at the US-Africa Summit, he offered up his own story. "I stand before you as the president of the United States and a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa," he said in a toast at a dinner last night. "The blood of Africa runs through our family. And so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal.”

Obama discussed his memories of visiting Africa with his family, and he applauded "the new Africa, the Africa that is rising and so full of promise," the AP notes; the words referred to a song he heard in Senegal, Politico adds. He also referred to slavery, recalling a "painful past" and of "standing with our daughters in those doors of no return through which so many Africans passed in chains." The dinner was held on the White House's South Lawn because the crowd of 400-plus couldn't fit indoors; guests ranged from the presidents of South Africa and South Sudan to Jimmy Carter and Robert De Niro.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of the Republic of Mali ,and his wife Keita Aminata Maiga arrive for a dinner last night.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, President of the Republic of Mali ,and his wife Keita Aminata Maiga arrive for a dinner last night.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama offers a toast at a dinner for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, on the South Lawn of the White House,Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. African heads of state are gathering in Washington for an unprecedented summit to promote business development.
President Barack Obama offers a toast at a dinner for the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, on the South Lawn of the White House,Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. African heads of state are gathering in Washington for...   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Benin President Yayi Boni arrives for a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama.
Benin President Yayi Boni arrives for a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President of Guinea Alpha Conde and wife Djene Kaba Conde stand upon arrival for a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama.
President of Guinea Alpha Conde and wife Djene Kaba Conde stand upon arrival for a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, arrives for a dinner last night.
Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, arrives for a dinner last night.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Cameroon President Paul Biya and his wife Chantal arrive for a dinner last night.
Cameroon President Paul Biya and his wife Chantal arrive for a dinner last night.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Singer Lionel Richie performs Easy at a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama for the US-Africa Leaders Summit.
Singer Lionel Richie performs "Easy" at a dinner hosted by President Barack Obama for the US-Africa Leaders Summit.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with former President Jimmy Carter before President Barack Obama offers a toast.
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with former President Jimmy Carter before President Barack Obama offers a toast.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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