Commons Speaker, John Bercow MP, welcome to President Obama

Address to the US President, Barack Obama
Westminster Hall
Wednesday 25 May 2011

'Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. History is more than the path left by the past. It influences the present and can shape the future. We meet today in Westminster Hall, a building begun nine hundred years ago, when the Vikings were visiting the shores of what would become the United States, even if it was Columbus who would subsequently demonstrate the politician’s art of arriving late but claiming all the credit.

This Hall has witnessed grim trials and the sentencing to death of a king, coronation banquets, ceremonial addresses and the coffins of those receiving the last respects of our people. Few places reach so far into the heart of our nation. Yet until today, no American President has stood on these steps to address our country’s Parliament.

It is my honour, Mr President, to welcome you as our friend, and as a statesman. Statesmanship is the cement which seals our shared idealism as nations. It makes meaningful the unity of ambition, passion for freedom and abhorrence of injustice that is the core of our close alliance.

It has fallen to you to tackle economic turbulence at home, to protect the health of those without wealth and to seek that precious balance between security which is too often threatened, and human rights which are too often denied. History is not the burden of any one man or woman alone but some are called to meet a special share of its challenges. It is a duty that you discharge with a dignity, determination and distinction that are widely admired. Abraham Lincoln once observed that “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.'

Image: Parliamentary copyright