March 14th, 2012
11:08 PM ET
Concluding the official visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Washington D.C., the president and first lady hosted Cameron and his wife at a State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday evening. As yet another signifier of the importance of the so-called special relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain, the White House opted for a full State Dinner despite the fact that the dinner’s honoree is the head of the British government and not its head of state.
During the toasts, both leaders mixed humor with sincerity in expressing the importance of their friendship and the close relationship between the nations they lead.
“In all of our interactions, including today, I've learned something about David,” President Obama said. “In good times and in bad he's just the kind of partner that you want at your side. I trust him. He says what he does and he does what he says. I've seen his character, and I've seen his commitment to human dignity during Libya. I've seen his resolve, his determination to get the job done, whether it's righting our economies or succeeding in Afghanistan.”
For his turn Cameron also pointed to Obama's foreign policy successes in killing Osama bin Laden and aiding opposition forces in Libya to commend the president for his “strength, moral authority and wisdom.”
“Barack, it is an honor to call you an ally, a partner and a friend,” Cameron said. “You don't get to choose the circumstances you have to deal with as a president or a prime minister, and you don't get to choose the leaders that you have to work with, but all I can say is that it is a pleasure to work with someone with moral strength, with clear reason and with fundamental decency in this task of renewing our great national alliance for today and for the generations to follow.”
To lighten the mood, Obama read some press accounts of his visit to London in 2011, during which he and Cameron exchanged beers from their native countries, hosted a barbeque for service members and played table tennis with local students.
“One news story said David Cameron and Barack Obama cemented their special relationship by hitting the bottle,” Obama said to laughter from the crowd.
In a reference to their poor performance in table tennis Obama quoted another press account, “One newspaper asked the head coach of the British Olympic women’s team to critique our performance. Obama, the coach said, talked a lot, and David over-hits the ball. Both of them, I’m quoting here, looked a little confused.”
The leaders addressed a tent full of notable Americans and Brits from the fields of politics, entertainment, activism, business and the military. Along with numerous cabinet secretaries and British officials, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was in attendance, as was Utah’s Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Stars of the popular PBS drama Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern attended the dinner, along with British actor Idris Elba and American movie star George Clooney – who dined beside the first lady.
Activists from the LGBT community were also strongly represented, including newly minted president of the Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin, Gill Foundation founder Tim Gill, blogger Andrew Sullivan, philanthropist David Bohnett, columnist Jonathan Capehart and top Obama campaign bundlers Wally Brewster, Jr. and Robert Satawake.
From the business world, the guest list included British designer and senior vice president of Apple Inc. Sir Jony Ive, chairman and chief executive officer of Ernst & Young James S. Turley and billionaire founder of The Virgin Group Richard Branson.