Nova Scotia·Video

Barack Obama thanks Cape Breton for welcoming Americans fleeing Donald Trump

U.S. President Barack Obama gives Cape Breton a shout-out during a toast to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House state dinner.

U.S. president gives Nova Scotia a shout-out during toast at White House state dinner

Barack Obama thanks Cape Breton for welcoming Americans fleeing Donald Trump

6 years ago
Duration 0:34
The U.S. president mentioned the island by name on Thursday night at a White House state dinner honouring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cape Breton, Barack Obama salutes you.

The U.S. president mentioned the island by name Thursday night at a White House state dinner honouring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In his toast, Obama paid tribute to the values that the U.S. and Canada share. 

"Where else would we see a community like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, welcoming Americans if the election does not go their way?" Obama told the White House dinner guests.

He went on to thank the Canadians — Nova Scotians among them — who welcomed stranded American travellers into their homes on Sept. 11, 2001.

Obama also mentioned the people of New Brunswick by name while poking fun at Donald Trump's plan to build a wall across the Mexico-U.S. border. 

"To the great credit of their people, Canadians from British Columbia to New Brunswick have, so far, rejected the idea of building a wall to keep out your southern neighbours," he said.

"We appreciate that. We can be unruly, I know."

'I think we've reached full saturation'

Trudeau responded in kind during his toast, joking that one of Canada's most popular exports to the U.S. is Justin Bieber.

"Of course, leave it to a Canadian to reach international fame with a song called Sorry," Trudeau said. 

Earlier this week, Trudeau also complimented Cape Breton when asked about the Cape Breton If Trump Wins campaign launched by Sydney, N.S., radio host Rob Calabrese.

Calabrese said Friday that with Obama's mention of Cape Breton, his campaign had reached its pinnacle.

"I think Obama talking about Cape Breton is even bigger than if Trump were to talk about it," he told CBC News.

"I think we've reached full saturation, and I don't know where it could possibly go from here. And I'm so happy that it has been portrayed in a positive light this entire time, even by President Obama."

Full text of Obama's toast: 

OBAMA: Good evening, everybody. Bonsoir. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House as we host Prime Minister Trudeau, Mrs. Gregoire-Trudeau and the Canadian delegation for the first official visit and state dinner with Canada in nearly 20 years. We intend to have fun tonight. But not too much. If things get out of hand, remember that the prime minister used to work as a bouncer. Truly.

So tonight, history comes full circle. Forty-four years ago, President Nixon made a visit to Ottawa. And he was hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. At a private dinner, there was a toast. "Tonight, we'll dispense with the formalities," President Nixon said, "I'd like to propose a toast to the future Prime Minister of Canada — Justin Pierre Trudeau." He was four months at the time.

All these years later, the prediction has come to pass. Mr. Prime Minister, after today, I think it's fair to say that, here in America, you may well be the most popular Canadian named Justin.

I said this morning that Americans and Canadians are family. And tonight, I want to recognize two people who mean so much to me and Michelle and our family. First of all, my wonderful brother-in-law, originally from Burlington, Ont.  — Konrad Ng. This is actually an interesting story, though, that I was not aware of — Konrad indicated to me when we saw each other this afternoon that part of the reason his family was able to emigrate to Canada was because of policies adopted by Justin's father. And so, had that not happened, he might not have met my sister, in which case, my lovely nieces might not have been born. So this is yet one more debt that we owe the people of Canada.

Burlington, Mississauga, Toronto

In addition, a true friend and a member of my team who has been with me every step of the way — he is from Toronto and Victoria, and also a frequent golf partner, Marvin Nicholson. So as you can see, they've infiltrated all of our ranks.

Before I ever became president, when we celebrated my sister and Konrad's marriage, Michelle and I took our daughters to Canada. And we went to Burlington and — this is always tough — Mississauga. And then we went to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Mississauga. I can do that. And everywhere we went, the Canadian people made us feel right at home.

And tonight, we want our Canadians friends to feel at home. So this is not a dinner, it's supper. We thought of serving up some poutine. I was going to bring a two-four. And then we'd finish off the night with a double-double. But I had to draw the line at getting milk out of a bag — this, we Americans do not understand. We do, however, have a little Canadian whisky. That, we do understand.

This visit has been a celebration of the values that we share. We, as a peoples, are committed to the principles of equality and opportunity — the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it if you try, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, in both of our countries.

'Unruly, I know'

And we see this in our current presidential campaign. After all, where else could a boy born in Calgary grow up to run for president of the United States? Where else would we see a community like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, welcoming Americans if the election does not go their way? And to the great credit of their people, Canadians from British Columbia to New Brunswick have, so far, rejected the idea of building a wall to keep out your southern neighbours. We appreciate that. We can be unruly, I know.

On a serious note, this visit reminds us of what we love about Canada. It's the solidarity shown by so many Canadians after 9/11 when they welcomed stranded American travelers into their homes. It's the courage of your service members, standing with us in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. It's the compassion of the Canadian people welcoming refugees — and the prime minister himself, who told those refugees, "You're safe at home now."

Justin, we also see Canada's spirit in your mother's brave advocacy for mental health care — and I want to give a special welcome to Margaret Trudeau tonight. And we see Canada's spirit in Sophie — a champion of women and girls, because our daughters deserve the same opportunities that anybody's sons do.

And this spirit reminds us of why we're all here — why we serve. Justin, Sophie, your children are still young. They are adorable and they still let you hug them. When we first spoke on the phone after your election, we talked not only as president and prime minister, but also as fathers. When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just seven. And they grow up too fast. This fall, Malia heads off to college. And I'm starting to choke up. So I'm going to wind this — it was in my remarks — and I didn't — I can't do it. It's hard.

Better world

But there is a point to this, though, and that is that we're not here for power. We're not here for fame or fortune. We're here for our kids. We're here for everybody's kids — to give our sons and our daughters a better world. To pass to them a world that's a little safer, and a little more equal, and a little more just, a little more prosperous so that a young person growing up in Chicago or Montreal or on the other side of the world has every opportunity to make of their life what they will, no matter who they are or what they look like, or how they pray or who they love.

Justin, I believe there are no better words to guide us in this work than those you once used to describe what your father taught you and your siblings — to believe in yourself. To stand up for ourselves. To know ourselves, and to accept responsibility for ourselves. To show a genuine and deep respect for each other and for every human being.

And so I would like to propose a toast — to the great alliance between the United States and Canada; to our friends, Justin and Sophie; to the friendship between Americans and Canadians and the spirit that binds us together — a genuine and deep and abiding respect for each and every human being. Cheers.

With files from The Canadian Press


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