Saturday, November 12, 2011

President Obama Toasts To Ohana And The Future At 2011 APEC Leaders Dinner

"A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ task is too big when done together by all"...
Standing at a podium under a dramatically lit tent on the grounds of the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu, President Obama on Saturday night welcomed the leaders and representatives from 20 other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations with a luau, dinner and a hula performance. He was clad in the same dark suit he'd worn all day for his meetings, and greeted his guests in Hawaiian and English as he toasted with a glass of water, as is his habit. (Above: Mid-toast)

Earlier in the day, the Honolulu-born President said he felt "a little odd" wearing a business suit for the very first time during a visit to Hawaii. As he made his toast, First Lady Michelle Obama sat to the President's right at the Head Table, clad in a pewter and silver strapless cocktail dress, with a bright pink bodice. The dinner, prepared by chef Alan Wong, began after an Arrival Ceremony that was delayed by security issues and lasted close to an hour. The President in his toast spoke of 'ohana, family, and the theme of the weekend summit: Cooperation. (Above: The President and Mrs. Obama at the arrival ceremony)

The President anchored his toast with a Hawaiian proverb, and opened with the traditional Hawaiian greeting. Guests included Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Harper; Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her "domestic partner" Tim Mathieson; South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok; China's President Hu Jintao; and President Demitry Medvedev of Russia.

"Aloha," President Obama said to his guests, who were seated around four large tables.

Hawaii, the President said, is "a melting pot" that could inspire the work of APEC, which represents 3 billion people of every race, faith and creed.

"Here, we’re a single ‘ohana -- one family. We remember that beneath the surface, behind all the different languages and some very long names, we all share the same hopes, the same struggles and the same aspirations. And we’ve learned that we’re more likely to realize our aspirations when we pursue them together," President Obama said.

"That’s the spirit of Hawaii. It’s what made me who I am. It’s what shapes my interactions with all of you. And it’s the spirit that I hope guides us in our work this weekend."

He raised his glass.

"And so I’d like to propose a toast with the words of a traditional Hawaiian proverb: A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia. And that means, no task is too big when done together by all," President Obama said. "Cheers. Salud. Everybody enjoy the evening."

Chef Wong has cooked at the White House, and President Obama has visited his Honolulu restaurant, Alan Wong's, the last five times he was on island.

After dinner, during a reception that included more guests, the President and Mrs. Obama watched a cultural performance in the hotel's amphitheater. Manu Boyd and his hula halau entertained the larger, post-luau gathering, as did singer Makana, who also performed during the dinner. They performed on a stage lit with fire torches, and the evening ended just before midnight local time.

The First Lady earlier in the day had her own event, visiting MA'O Organic Farms in Waianae, and hosting a roundtable with the students who run the farm. She was joined by Hawaiian chef Ed Kenny, who will prepare her luncheon for APEC Leaders' spouses on Sunday at Kualoa Ranch.

*AP photos

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