Tuesday marked President Barack Obama’s last state visit. And perhaps understandably the soon-to-be-former president got a little sentimental.
“Today is bittersweet for Michelle and I because this marks the final official visit and state dinner of my presidency,” Obama told hundreds gathered on the South Lawn. “But it’s OK. We saved the best for last.”
But like most things these days Donald Trump intruded. Reporters asked multiple questions about Trump at a news conference and even Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi couldn’t help but reference the Republican presidential nominee.
“Today, we, together, we are facing the challenge of give the name to a new era together – a new era, a new season full of opportunities, also full of uncertainties,” he said. “But my personal opinion is the name of the future has to be freedom. The name has to . . . be education, not intolerance. Sustainability, not distraction. Trust, not hate. Bridges, not walls. The name of the future has to be growth, not destroy. And in a time of fear, we have to give answer with audacity of hope, not only in United States.”
Obama, too, alluded to Trump without mentioning his name.
“As president, I’m especially grateful for my partnership with my good friend Matteo,” he said. “I mean, look at him – he’s young, handsome. He’s put forth a vision of progress that’s not rooted in people’s fears, but rather in their hopes.”
Obama and Renzi spoke during a formal arrival ceremony on the South Lawn complete with a red carpet, a military honor guard and a 21-gun salute. Hundreds of people, including some young children, waved small U.S. and Italian flags.
Late Tuesday, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were scheduled to honor Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini, at a lavish state dinner served inside of a massive tent erected on the South Lawn. It will be the Obamas’ 13th and final state dinner.