FW: POOL Report #5 -- Toasts between Obama and Singapore PM

From: Alexis Simendinger [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 2, 2016 9:02 PM
To: Rutherford, Sarah D. EOP/WHO
Subject: POOL Report #5 -- Toasts between Obama and Singapore PM

President Obama began speaking at 8:09 pm to deliver a toast, after rising from his seat at a long head table. He was seated between PM Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs. Lee, and First Lady Michelle Obama was to the prime minister’s right.

Be sure to check the transcript, per usual. (Imperfect acoustics during our brief visit to the East Room.)

The president said he and the first lady were pleased to welcome the prime minister of Singapore and Mrs. Lee to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Obama joked about how seriously Singaporeans take their food, and how even street vendors and stalls earn Michelin stars there… he joked about an odiferous Singapore food item the White House decided not to serve.

“As we pursue a more peaceful and prosperous order in the Asia Pacific, our partnership is rooted in more than strategic interests…”

The president said that when PM Lee was sworn in last year, he had spoken of “the shared purpose that animates the people of Singapore, each of us giving our best, united by shared ideals, our faith in our nation … what is true of Singapore is true of the relationship between our two countries….”

Obama toasted the “friendship and partnership between our two peoples” and said “Onward Singapore.”

At 8:14, Prime Minister Lee stood to respond with a toast of his own, speaking until 8:21.  He mentioned meeting Obama in May 2007 for the first time, when the Illinois Senator “was not yet the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.”  The guests laughed and Obama smiled.

The prime minister noted Obama’s years growing up in Indonesia and said they were influential.  He commended the president’s efforts to rebalance relations with Asia.

PM Lee described a lame duck achievement by President Clinton, during a “rainy night in Brunei” and a midnight game of golf during an APEC summit that he said contributed to the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.  The president’s expression during this short anecdote was attentive, as if he did not know this story, and after he heard it and the guests all laughed, Obama made an exaggerated facial expression of amazement that seemed to convey “how about that!”

The prime minister continued his praise and admiration, saying “America is a great nation, not just because of your power and your wealth, but because of your high ideals, openness and generosity .. You make common cause with others…. "

He made no mention of the president’s upcoming birthday.

To mark the 50th anniversary of relations between the two countries, he said Singapore has named a hybrid tiger (that’s what everyone in the POOL heard — tiger) in honor of President and Mrs. Obama, a hybrid of breeds native to Singapore and Hawaii, “where the president was born, most of us believe.”  The audience laughed heartily, along with the first lady, who clapped her hands, and Obama laughed, as well.

From POOL’s perch, we could see Actor Matthew Rhys sitting next to Michelle Obama, and it appeared actress Keri Russell was directly across from him. Also across from the first lady: former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and husband Captain Mark Kelly.  Seated at a nearby round table next to one another: Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. Bob Casey of Pa.

Next Up: First Song in the State Dining Room.

Alexis Simendinger

White House Correspondent





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