Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
President Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle Obama, hugs Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016.

Why did Obama roll out the red carpet for Italy's Renzi?

'We've saved the best for last,' Obama said of the last official state dinner, which celebrates his relationship with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

President Obama didn't just roll out the red carpet for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday. He unfurled it with a flourish.

It's the last state dinner of the Obama presidency, and the Obamas seem intent on pulling out all the stops. Upon Mr. Renzi's arrival, Obama and wife Michelle welcomed the prime minister and his wife, Agnese Landini, to the White House with trumpets blaring on the South Lawn. Celebrated Italian-American chef Mario Batali will cater tonight's dinner. Dinner entertainment will be offered by Gwen Stefani, also Italian-American.

Obama's rhetoric was also more than polite. Some even accused the president of gushing. "Look at him," Obama said of Renzi, speaking at a joint news conference in the Rose Garden. "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."

Both Renzi and Obama were keen to affirm the importance of the relationship between their countries before Obama leaves the White House for good, with both men expressing approval of their counterpart’s policies during meetings on Tuesday.

"I think Matteo embodies a new generation of leadership, not just for Italy but also for Europe," said Obama.  

As the United States faces a hotly contested presidential election and Italy continues to face a worsening European financial and refugee crisis, both men discussed their hopes for the future.

Renzi pointed to Obama’s leadership during the United States’ own financial crisis and the divisive presidential election, saying, “I think there are a lot of people who think politics is only about screaming and fighting each other, creating hate and division. You are different, Mr. President. We are different.”

In a thinly veiled reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s political views, Renzi told Obama that he believes the future of both Italy and the United States lies in emphasizing principles of liberty and growth.

“My personal opinion is that the name of future has to be freedom. The name of the future has to be education not intolerance, sustainability not distraction, trust not hate, bridge[s] not walls. The name of the future has to be growth not austerity,” Renzi said. “In the time of fear, we have to give answer with the audacity of hope, not only in the United States.”

Italians are less than two months away from a vote on constitutional changes proposed by Renzi that could dampen the power of the Italian senate. While many, including the American ambassador to Italy, think that the constitutional changes could be a good thing for Italy’s democracy, others say that they could open the door to a Euroskeptic movement à la Brexit. Renzi, on the contrary, supports a strongly integrated Europe.

If Renzi’s proposed constitutional changes don’t go through, the prime minister could be out of a job, an outcome that Obama has said he considers less than ideal.

Whichever way the election goes, however, the Obama administration has stressed that Italy remains a key partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama said that few of America's allies are as reliable as Italy, ABC News reported.

"In good times and in bad, we count on each other," Obama said. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Why did Obama roll out the red carpet for Italy's Renzi?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today