President Obama on the Relationship Between Australia and the United States

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Prime Minister Gillard:
President Obama;
Mr. Harry Jenkins, Speaker of the House of
Representatives; Senator, the Honourable John Hogg,
President of the Senate; The Honourable Tony Abbott,
Leader of the Opposition; Honourable Members of the
Australian Parliament; distinguished
guests one and all. Mr. President, it’s good to
see you again after so long — I think it’s been two days. (laughter) And when I saw you emerge
from Air Force One today, I thought two things: One, it’s
a lot easier to run down stairs if you’re not wearing
high heels — (laughter) And two, whilst I’ve been
counseled by the chief of our air force about making this
statement, I’m going to do it, anyway: Our Air Force plane made
it back from Hawaii to Australia before Air Force One. Now — (laughter and applause) That statement may not
be a deep analysis, but I thought I
should make it anyway. And Mr. President, I also wanted
to say to you we’ve been a little bit nervous about
tonight, because my partner, Tim, really got a talking to
from the First Lady when we were in Hawaii. She said to him that you often
don’t eat because you are so focused on your work
that you forget to eat, and she wanted to
make sure that you — we fed you well in Australia. So the only answer to that was
to ensure you had a hearty meal and to make sure that there were
six to seven hundred witnesses so that Michelle will know that
we have been feeding you well while you’re here. But Mr. President, you come to
Australia tonight to share a night of friendship and to share
a visit in which we will look to the future. You come to our country with
all of the honours due to a Head of State. You come as an ally, as a
partner and as a friend. And you come as a person for
whom many Australians feel great personal warmth, and I think
that’s been on display in this room tonight. Not just for the substance
of your leadership abroad and at home. But for the style of modern
leadership you display as well. Australians, not given
to overstatement, see you leading a great nation
amid all the passions of politics in a democracy and we
see in you a clear combination of vision and a very deep calm. And we admire your own unique
journey in life and law, community and politics. Australians who know your memoir
Dreams from My Father can’t help but experience the shock of
the familiar as we read your remembrances of time past of a
life lived with roots in many places — from Hawaii and
Indonesia to Kansas and Kenya, from Boston to
Chicago to Washington. We know that in this respect,
you embody the American dream of opportunity. But Australians also recognize,
in your wider reflections on identity and place, the value of
a world view that looks outwards rather than inwards. Like ours, a state of
mind that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, that sees
diversity not as a weakness, but as a very great strength. Like ours, an acceptance of
responsibility in the world, of an obligation to all, that
goes with maturity as a people and as a nation. That is your story,
that is our story, that is part of what our
two people hold in common. Part of our common cause
for the common good. Mr. President, we have
been allies for 60 years. Comrades in arms for
decades before then. And friends for longer still. In what is a year
of anniversaries, we share a long history but we
know it is a history defined, more than by anything else,
by our shared, restless, forward questing. Defined always, then and now,
by the things we do together to honour our national pledges,
to be young and free, to be home to the brave. Mr. President, you
are very welcome. (applause) Speaker:
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Honourable Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition. (applause) Tony Abbott:
Mr. President, Prime Minister,
parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests. It is indeed an honour to follow
our Prime Minister in formally welcoming President
Obama to Australia. As the leader of the
United States, sir, you are the world’s president
because no other country has such a place in the life
and such a hold over the imaginations of people
across the globe. As Prime Minister
Gillard has said, watching the moon landing in
1969 convinced her that there was nothing that America and
Americans could not achieve. The moon landing, sir,
was special for me, too. My teachers didn’t think it was
important enough to interrupt classes for. So, I absconded to a friend’s
house to watch the broadcast. It was the only time in my life
I ever wagged school and I’d like to think that I
did it for America. (laughter and applause) The subsequent
corporal punishment; I suppose that was
for America, too — a small price to pay for
watching history in the making and cheering for the country
which at that moment was acting for all humanity. Years later, sir, as a student
in Oxford I felt instantly at home amongst the English only to
discover after six months that nearly all of my
friends were American. Perhaps it was just the
solidarity of strangers; more likely, it was the natural
affinity that Americans and Australians have for each other. It was an American who not only
taught me the Star Spangled Banner, but insisted
that I sing it — in the Soviet Union,
no less — in 1982. It was an American who
persuaded me to become a boxer, an American Jesuit, the
ultimate muscular Christian. (laughter) From the American sealers and
whalers who were an important part of our national
economy back in the 1800s; the officers and men of the
Great White Fleet who were given perhaps the most tumultuous
welcome ever extended to any visitors to our shores;
General Pershing’s men, who went to war for the first
time under General Monash in the Battle of Hamel; to the
countless Americans and Australians at all times and in
all places who instantly warm to each other’s informality
and readiness to have a go. Our citizens are not
strangers to each other. English-speaking peoples
never really are. I was reminded of this, sir, on
a recent visit to Afghanistan. Only a senior American
officer would have invited an image-conscious politician to
test-fire a heavy machine gun and only an Australian
alternative prime minister would have been rash enough to do so. (laughter) But for all the instinctive
bonds there can still be misunderstandings. On my first trip to the United
States as a parliamentarian, the U.S. Information Agency
briefed my hosts that I was a ferocious liberal and
deeply anti-republican, which meant that I spent most of
the fortnight being introduced to communists. (laughter) The very concept of the office I
hold as an institutional critic of government is foreign to
your notions of a powerful and unifying president. Indeed, the nearest thing you
have to an opposition leader is probably an editorial in
the Wall Street Journal. But a good thing it is to have
a shadow government to keep the official one on its toes. Regardless, sir, of their
normal political affiliations, millions of Australians took
pride in your election as President because it showed that
America could live up to its dreams and that Americans were
capable of judging people by the content of their characters
rather than the color of their skin. In similar vein — (applause) In similar vein, I am very proud
that an Aboriginal has finally been elected to the Australian
House of Representatives as a member of the Liberal
National Coalition. (applause) Mr. President, we too are a
country that has beckoned to the “poor, the huddled masses,
yearning to be free.” We too are a country spreading
across a continent from sea to shining sea. We too are one nation
indivisible under God with liberty and justice for all and
at least in this country, sir, the President of the United
States stands for power tempered with good will, wealth with
justice and energy with wisdom. So, naturally, we could
hardly have amongst us a more welcome guest. (applause) Speaker:
Ladies and gentlemen, The
Honourable Barack Obama, President of the United
States of America. (applause) President Obama:
Well, Prime Minister
Gillard and Leader Abbot, thank you both for your
wonderfully warm words. And I thank you for showing that
in Canberra, as in Washington, people may not always
see eye-to-eye, but on this we are all united:
There are no better friends than the United States and Australia. (applause) Mr. Speaker, Mr. President,
and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am going to be brief, for we have had a busy day. I am not sure what day it is. (laughter) Am I’m going to subject you to
a very long speech tomorrow. But I do want to express my
deepest appreciation for the way you’ve welcomed me here today. I know that I am not the
first guy from Chicago to come to these parts. A century ago, Walter Burley
Griffin came here with a vision for this city. He said, “I have planned a
city that is not like any other in the world.” And tonight, I want
to thank all of you — and the people of Australia
— for the hospitality that is unlike any other in the world. Our toasts earlier tonight
reminded me of a story. It’s from our troops —
this is true story — our troops serving
together in Afghanistan. Our guys, the Americans,
couldn’t figure out why your guys were always
talking about cheese. All day long. Morning, noon and night. Why are the Aussies always
talking about cheese? And then, finally,
they realized — it was their Australian
friends just saying hello, just saying “cheers.” (laughter) So we Americans and Australians,
we may not always speak the same way, or use the same words,
but I think it’s pretty clear, especially from the
spirit of this visit, and our time together
this evening, that we understand each other. And we see the world
in the same way — even if we do have to disagree
on the merits of vegemite. (laughter) As many of you know, I first
came to Australia as a child. But despite my visits, I have
to admit I never did learn to talk “Strine.” (laughter) I know there’s some concern here
that your Australian language is being Americanized. So perhaps it’s time for
us to reverse the trend. Tonight, with your permission,
I’d like to give it a burl. (laughter and applause) I want to thank the Prime
Minister for a very productive meeting that we had today. I think she’ll agree
it was a real chinwag. (laughter) When Julia and I meet,
we listen to each other, we learn from each other. It’s not just a
lot of earbashing. (laughter) That’s a good one — earbashing. (laughter) I can use that in Washington. (laughter) Because there’s a lot
of earbashing sometimes. (laughter) That’s been the story
of our two nations. Through a century of
progress and struggle, we have stood together,
in good times and in bad. We’ve faced our share
of sticky wickets. (laughter) In some of our
darkest moments — when our countries
have been threatened, when we needed a
friend to count on — we’ve always been
there for each other. At Darwin. At Midway. After 9/11 and after Bali. It’s that moment, in
the midst of battle — when the bullets are flying
and the outcome is uncertain — when Americans and Aussies
look over at each other, knowing that we’ve got
each other’s backs, knowing in our hearts —
no worries, she’ll be right. (laughter and applause) And so tonight — as we mark
60 years of this remarkable alliance, through war and peace,
hardship and prosperity — we gather together, among so
many friends who sustain the bonds between us, and we can say
with confidence and with pride: The alliance between the United
States and Australia is deeper and stronger than it has
ever been — spot on — (laughter) — cracker-jack — (laughter) — in top nick. (laughter) Thank you very much, everybody. (applause)

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