PM Lee and President Obama raise toasts at White House state dinner, pay tribute to strong Singapore-US ties

Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama toasting during the state dinner at the White House on Aug 2.
Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama toasting during the state dinner at the White House on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
President Obama and Mrs Lee at the state house dinner on Aug 2 in Washington, DC, US.
President Obama and Mrs Lee at the state house dinner on Aug 2 in Washington, DC, US.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Guests at the White House state dinner on Aug 2.
Guests at the White House state dinner on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee to the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee to the White House in Washington, DC.PHOTO: REUTERS
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the attendees of the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC on Aug 2, 2016.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addresses the attendees of the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC on Aug 2, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
President Obama toasting during the state dinner at the White House on Aug 2.
President Obama toasting during the state dinner at the White House on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
US President Barack Obama offers a toast to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and his wife Mrs Lee at the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Barack Obama offers a toast to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and his wife Mrs Lee at the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama offers a toast to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee during the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Barack Obama offers a toast to Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee during the state dinner at the White House in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP
(From left) Mrs Lee, Mrs Obama, Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama arriving at the White House for the state dinner.
(From left) Mrs Lee, Mrs Obama, Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama arriving at the White House for the state dinner.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Mrs Obama greets Mrs Lee before the state dinner on Aug 2.
Mrs Obama greets Mrs Lee before the state dinner on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Mr and Mrs Obama arrive at the White House for the state dinner on Aug 2.
Mr and Mrs Obama arrive at the White House for the state dinner on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama entering the White House on Aug 2.
Mr Lee Hsien Loong and President Obama entering the White House on Aug 2.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee Hsien Loong to the White House in Washington, DC.
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Mrs Lee Hsien Loong to the White House in Washington, DC. PHOTO: REUTERS
PM Lee Hsien Loong (second from right), Mrs Lee Hsien Loong (left), First Lady Michelle Obama and US President Barack Obama pose for photos before the state dinner at the White House.
PM Lee Hsien Loong (second from right), Mrs Lee Hsien Loong (left), First Lady Michelle Obama and US President Barack Obama pose for photos before the state dinner at the White House. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Barack Obama traded toasts at the state dinner on Tuesday (Wednesday morning, Singapore time), paying tribute to strong ties and the achievements of both countries.

PM Lee said that Singapore admired America's "dynamism vibrancy and capacity for self-renewal".

"These qualities attract the best and brightest from around the world. Thousands of Singaporeans study in the US, attracted not just by the excellent academic education, but also the unique dynamism of your campuses, and the ethos of your society. This is something that Singapore hopes to emulate as we seek to tap into this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship," he said.

He noted that Singapore seeks to collaborate with the US on a broad range of areas from sports to education, and appreciates the country's openness.

"Some of Singapore's Olympic hopefuls have come to train with America's best athletes. One of our swimmers, Joseph Schooling, is a member of the University of Texas swim team and was the 2016 NCAA champion in the 100m and 200m butterfly. And we hope he will do well in Rio," he said.

He also stressed that the US remains a welcome presence in Asia and hoped the country would remain in the region.

 

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And PM Lee even told a joke when announcing that Singapore had named an orchid hybrid - Dendrobium Barack and Michelle Obama - after the President and First Lady.

"To mark the 50th anniversary of our relations, Singapore has named an orchid hybrid in honour of President and Mrs Obama. This is a hybrid of breeds native to Singapore and Hawaii, where the President was born, most of us believe," he said to laughter from the crowd.

Mr Obama has been the target of conspiracy theories that he was not born in the US.

In President Obama's toast, he joked about Singapore's obsession with food.

"We all know how seriously Singaporeans take their food," he said. "In Singapore, even the street vendors, the hawker stalls, earn Michelin stars, which created some pressure this evening. We were tempted to offer each of you a Singapore Sling or some chilli crab. However, for some of you who know its unmistakable scent, that never goes away, you will understand why we will not serve any fruit known as durian."

On the bilateral relationship, Mr Obama stressed that the partnership had endured because it was rooted in more than just strategic interests but also history and friendship.

Then raising his glass, Mr Obama said: "To Prime Minister and Mrs Lee, and to the friendship and partnership between our peoples, let's continue to build something special together. Onward Singapore. Majulah Singapura. Onward America. Cheers, yam seng."

The glitzy black-tie affair was attended by some 200 guests. Among the guests at the main table with the leaders were actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys, as well as author Amy Tan.

After the state dinner, the guests were entertained by American singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele.