THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release June 7, 2011
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT STATE DINNER PRESS PREVIEW
2:02 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, you all look lovely. How are you? Good afternoon and welcome to the White House. You know, this is a special day. We’re hosting another state visit. And one of the things that we really love to do when we have state visits is to invite you guys in so that you have a better sense of what happens in this place, because we always give the press a preview, right? They want to know what we’re serving and what the tables are going to look like. And these are — this is what the tables are going to look like, so everybody take a look.
But we also like to use it as an opportunity to educate you guys and give you a chance to be in on what’s going to happen tonight, right? You guys live in Washington. You live in the Washington, D.C. area. People — you read about these state visits. But how often is it that you get a chance to get a little piece of it, right?
So that’s why all of the staff, everyone that works on the state dinners — this is really one of the best parts of the dinner, is inviting you guys in and letting you get a little peek.
But let me just tell you about this visit. The President is hosting the leader of Germany, Chancellor Merkel, and this is an official visit, so it’s something a little bit different from when a world leader just comes by and comes by the Oval Office. I mean, this is when we roll out the red carpet because we have a special relationship with the visiting country.
And tonight is special because the President and I, in addition to hosting the Chancellor and her husband — the President is going to give the Chancellor the Medal of Freedom, which is the higher honor that any civilian can receive from the President of the United States. So that’s pretty cool. She’s really excited about that.
And very few people from outside of our country have ever received this honor. Usually it’s for people here in this country. But that’s a testament to Chancellor Merkel’s extraordinary life, and it’s one of great service not just to her country but to the rest of the world.
She grew up under Communist rule in East Germany, back when Berlin was divided by the wall. And when the wall came down and her country reunited, she dedicated herself to public service.
And she has been a leader in Germany’s democracy more than ten [two] decades, so her career spans, well, time longer than most of you have been alive. And six years ago, she became the first East German and the first woman to serve as Germany’s Chancellor.
And her life reminds us of the opportunity that women have to lead our governments and to strengthen our world. I mean, you look at someone as powerful and influential and as dedicated as Chancellor Merkel, and you’re reminded that women are amazing and they play a critical role in strengthening ties around the world.
And it’s not just women like Chancellor Merkel in other countries. We have some of our own powerhouses right here in the United States, people like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. They are working very hard in this country to foster ties with governments all around the world.
So I want you all to know that no matter where you come from, or what you look like, or how much money your family may have, you can have a real impact on the world. And that’s a message that we try to tell young people all across the world.
And I’m going to be traveling to Africa soon, spending time in South Africa and Botswana, working with young leaders and women leaders and delivering some of the same messages. And we’re going to figure out ways for young girls like you all to be a part of that trip, as well.
But for now it’s time for me to turn it over to our special guest, Brooke Anderson, who’s the Chief of Staff for the National Security Staff here at the White House. And Brooke is going to give you a few more of the details about the official visit. She is a great role model for all that young women can be, and a reminder of what you can do when you work hard at anything. And she loves doing this stuff, as well. We’re always grateful to have her on board. So I’m going to turn it over to Brooke. And then we’ll get to try a little dessert and talk a little bit more amongst ourselves after these guys leave, okay?
So with that, I’ll turn it over to Brooke — and come and sit down. I’m sitting over here. Brooke, come on. Thank you so much.